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Exclusive interview with Ralf Schumacher 05 Mar 2007

Ralf Schumacher (GER), Toyota. F1 Testing, Day Five, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Wednesday, 28 February 2007.  World © Patching/Sutton

Despite the TF107’s mixed fortunes during the recent Bahrain tests, Ralf Schumacher remains optimistic that Toyota’s 2007 challenger has what it takes to win. Ahead of the team’s last-minute test in Jerez this week, we caught up with Schumacher to find out what he thinks about the car’s reliability and to gauge his expectations for his 11th year in Formula One racing…

Q: New season, new luck - or will the new TF107 make it to the podium without luck?
Ralf Schumacher:
We had some bad luck last year with reliability issues when we looked like scoring a strong result, but this year we expect to be fighting for the front positions all season. We hope to be constantly fighting for podiums.

Q: You have done some mileage with the new car. How did it feel compared to last year's car? Has there been any improvement over the different tests?
RS:
Well, my impressions have been pretty good, I must say. The car is doing what I expected, it seems well balanced so I am optimistic. Sure, it is not in its final stages so it will be even better once we start the season. Driving was nice so far but we have to wait and see where we are compared to the other teams.

Q: What are the fundamental differences to the TF106?
RS:
A lot of things have changed on this car, it is completely different to the TF106 or the TF106B. One area we really want to improve is reliability so I hope that is a difference this year. The team knows the areas we struggled with last year and we hope we have sorted them out. This car is a much more complex car in the design than before.

Q: How is the spirit in the team? Have smiles replaced the tears of 2006?
RS:
The spirit in the team is very good. The guys worked hard all last season and we made some progress, now we are optimistic for this season so we are still smiling.

Q: At the launch of the new car there were some in the Toyota team predicting that this will be the year of the team's first win. You also said you were very optimistic for the new season. Did your first outing in the TF107 support your optimism?
RS:
The tests with the TF107 have gone reasonably well, the car gives me a good feeling and I am optimistic about it. It is too early to say where we will be compared with the other teams as we have a lot of work still to do before the season starts and testing never shows the reality - only races do, but so far it seems to be going well.

Q: Last season you occasionally gave the impression that racing felt slightly humdrum for you. Do you feel more excited about the season ahead?
RS:
That is not how I felt. I am still motivated. If I wasn't, I would retire. Racing has actually become more and more enjoyable because I am really happy working with the team. I am enjoying my time at Toyota more than ever and the pure pleasure of being a Formula One driver keeps me motivated.

Q: At the end of this season, Toyota has a two-year option on you. When in the season will you start to think about your future?
RS:
I don't know. It is too early to talk about the future now. I don't think it's important to be talking about that at the moment. First of all we need to do some racing.

Q: As a director of the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association), you have become a vocal supporter of safety in motorsport. How much does the ‘family man factor’ contribute to your thinking?
RS:
Safety in Formula One is very important to me. As drivers, we all have a responsibility to help improve the safety in Formula One and it is in all our interests for improvements to be made.