Q&A with Toyotas Ralf Schumacher 30 May 2007
After failing to make it past Q3 and finishing just 16th in the race, Ralf Schumacher did not have the greatest of Monaco Grands Prix. Luckily, as Schumacher explains, there was plenty else to enjoy about the Monte Carlo weekend
Q: Is Monaco still a special race for you?
Ralf Schumacher: It is, but this year we had a very difficult time on the track and its not a race I will remember with any pleasure. Off the track Monaco is always a good place to be, with a lot of interesting social events.
Q: What makes it special?
RS: Well, its an extra day for a start, and its also the race that a lot of sponsors love to attend, so there tends to be more going on off the track than normal. The extra day means that the programme has a little time for events other than the racing, which is nice, especially for the hard-working team guys. What they would normally have to do on a Friday night, for Saturday, can be done more leisurely during Friday. That means that they might get a couple of hours on Friday afternoon to go and look at the boats or enjoy the surroundings a little, which is not something they normally get in a standard race schedule.
Q: Did you attend any good parties?
RS: I was invited onto the Indian Empress which, at 95m, was one of the most impressive boats in the harbour. It is owned by a friend of mine, Dr Vijay Mallya, the chairman and CEO of Kingfisher Airlines, who are a Toyota sponsor.
Q: Were you rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous?
RS: Well, Bernie (Ecclestone) and Flavio (Briatore) went on board, as well as many of Toyotas senior management! And also quite a few others from outside our F1 circle. American rapper Jay-Z was there, and Mick Doohan, the former 500cc world champion, is a Formula One fan and it was good to see him too. As well as that, over the weekend I met Japanese film star and singer Takuya Kimura.
Q: What were the problems on the track?
RS: Well, from the very start on Thursday, I just didnt have any grip. To drive well at Monaco you need to build up a rhythm, taking into account the changing circuit conditions that are always a feature there. As more tyre rubber goes down throughout the weekend the track seems to come to you, but this time it didnt. If you are missing grip in Monaco you just dont have any confidence and you cant push hard, its as simple as that.
Q: Why do you think you were struggling for grip so much?
RS: The car seemed pretty stiff and was bouncing and sliding a lot. Jarno (Trulli) seemed to just open up that window of getting some more grip. In the wet session on Saturday morning we were both slow and just couldnt get the tyres to work.
Q: Was there a problem generating enough heat in them?
RS: Thats what it looked like.
Q: How do you counteract that? Do you run more camber?
RS: There are a set of options but its not as simple as that. I think last weekend we saw that while there are tracks on which we are good, Monaco doesnt seem to be one of them! Some other teams that are usually quite a way from us also seemed to be very strong. We need to get on top of things. Its not really easy because we are at Monaco only once a year, there is nowhere else like it and you dont really have anything equivalent to it on which to test.
Q: So, it must have been a frustrating race?
RS: It was. When I didnt get beyond the first qualifying session, the strategy choice became pretty easy - you fuel up for a long stint and hope for the best. But I didnt get the best start and found myself right at the back with a fuel-heavy car. I had to follow a Spyker all the way to its first pit stop because its almost impossible to overtake in Monaco. I went further than any of those on a one-stop strategy, right to lap 49 out of 78, which shows how heavy the car was in the early laps, but I was hardly ever in clean air and 16th, just a second behind Jarno, was all I could do.
Q: How do you cope with a race like that?
RS: Monaco is a one-off, as Ive said, and I think thats how you have to treat it. The team scored points in each of the first three races and we are all working hard to make progress. Montreal, the venue for the Canadian GP in a fortnight, is a totally different kind of circuit. We will run much reduced downforce and the TF107 should be better suited to the track. Lets hope so! Montreal is also a place I like going, with a good ambiance around the race and I will be doing my best to get a strong result for the team.