Q&A with Toyotas Ralf Schumacher 12 Jul 2007
Although he enjoyed an impressive qualifying performance and started the event from sixth on the grid, last weekends British Grand Prix ultimately proved disappointing for Toyotas Ralf Schumacher.
Here, Schumacher discusses his early retirement at Silverstone and hints at his expectations for the Japanese team at the forthcoming European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in Germany...
Q: Was it especially disappointing to retire after your best qualifying of the year?
Ralf Schumacher: Yes, definitely. I retired just after one-third distance. I felt the wheel fixation problem as I came into the complex and it was a pity because we were strong all weekend and I was confident of a good result. Our performance level was good all weekend and we really expected to finish strongly. Unfortunately, after qualifying sixth I lost positions at the start but after that I was able to set lap times which were competitive with the cars in front. That showed we had the potential to fight for a top-six finish.
Q: Qualifying sixth seems to be a good step forward?
RS: Both cars qualified in the top ten, which is always our target. Silverstone seems to be good for us. In testing last month we were relatively competitive but I have to admit I was a little surprised. I expected us to be in the top ten but I didnt expect the top six. It was a nice surprise and a good reward for all the hard work the team put in.
Q: So where was the performance gain?
RS: Its simply that under certain circumstances our car is very competitive. We have seen it in Barcelona and we looked good in terms of pace in Magny-Cours too, but we had problems so we didnt get the results we wanted. We just need to extend that window a bit. I was happy for the team because they are really working hard and deserved to see an improvement. I have to say that the car has suited me well for the last two Grands Prix.
Q: Do you enjoy Silverstone?
RS: Ive always enjoyed the track but the only problem in the race is that overtaking opportunities are very slim - in fact pretty much non-existent unless somebody makes a mistake. But the circuit layout itself is enjoyable to drive and I have to say, the English fans are great. They are really into Formula One and you see that every time you even go testing there. Thats encouraging for all of us. Its a good event.
Q: Do you get strong support in the United Kingdom?
RS: Im always surprised actually, but maybe thats because Ive spent some of my career in English teams. Im always happy to be in England, except maybe for the weather
Q: Was it quite tiring to come from North America, test at Silverstone and then face the double-header in Magny-Cours and Silverstone?
RS: You do feel it. The long-haul races are difficult for the teams, the mechanics and for all of us, especially when you dont see much of your family. Its a lot of work and people get tired after overseas races but we are a world series and thats the way it is. You tend to be quite tired and a bit jet-lagged when you come straight from Indy and test in Europe on Tuesday. Thats not perfect but we needed to do something at the Silverstone test and thats why I came. After that, I went home and had two or three days when I just didnt do anything because I was tired. Then we were straight into France and Britain with little time to rest in between.
Q: The European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring is the next event and a home race for you. What can we expect from Toyota?
RS: We clearly have the potential to turn it around. We have good people, the right facilities and we just need to do the job. Everyone is pushing hard so I am quite optimistic. Clearly a double retirement at Silverstone is not satisfactory but the positive element was the sixth place in qualifying. That was representative and I had good lap times while I was still in the race. We were able to stay with the BMWs and Renaults and the fact that we were able to fight with the stronger teams will give everyone a lift as we prepare for the Nurburgring.