Q&A with Mercedes Michael Schumacher & Nico Rosberg 26 Jan 2010
If ever a driver line-up had that certain smell of success, this is it. There may be 15 years between Mercedes GP drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, but they are united in their attitude towards making the Silver Arrows a success through teamwork. Whether it really is a match made in heaven, only time will tell
Q: Nico, its always the number one priority of every driver to beat your team mate. You are up against a seven-time champion. How do you see your season?
Nico Rosberg: First of all I think it's important to say that we are racing together for Mercedes GP Petronas and it's also important that we achieve success for the team. And then obviously it's important for me as a driver to beat my team mate, so definitely it's going to be a big challenge this year. It's not going to be too easy. But I'm confident that I will be strong this year, so it shouldn't be a problem. Anyway, for me it's a fantastic opportunity to have Michael as a team mate. I look forward to working with him. I'm sure we will work well together. Definitely he has a lot of experience so there's a few things that I will be able to pick up from him.
Q: Michael, the father of the man sitting next to you said after Rascasse 2006 that the sport could do without you. How do you feel now driving with the son of the man who described you in that way?
Michael Schumacher: Good.
Q: A lot of people are expecting you to fight for the championship again. How realistic is this?
MS: I think we have everything it takes to do it. It's one thing to have all the ingredients to be able to cook it up, but it's another thing to have a good result. I believe with the experience Ross (Brawn) has, with what we did last year, having Mercedes as the team itself, with all the experience and the knowhow and the quality they have, on top of myself, then I'm sorry but there's only one target. But it's one thing to have a target and another thing to achieve it.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your last concerns regarding next week and your first test in a Formula One car? Will everything be okay for you . Are you sure?
MS: Yes, I am sure. I am hot. Remember we have started to discuss this in November and then you have to wait until the beginning of February. I was used to starting at the beginning of January - you usually used to test in the wintertime. It's just taking far too long to get going and we can't wait for next week. I have no issues with the neck. I've done the GP2 test and lots of preparation in the winter, lots of checks to make sure all is good.
Q: At your last race in Brazil 2006 you said that you were sorry for all the errors you made over the years. Is this return now somewhat of a demonstration that you can win in the right way, as some argued that despite the brilliant winner that you were, there were stains on your story?
MS: Yeah, I am sure 91 victories and seven titles you win only in a bad way, absolutely. You are right I need to prove (myself) now!
Q: It was the manner in which you won them, not what you won
MS: Yes, I know, I did win all this in the manner that you are trying to ask questions. Lets be sensible and think about the reality and look forward to what we all might face and learn and enjoy together. Thats what I am looking for!
Q: Nico and Michael, what would it mean for both of you to take a place as a part of Mercedes F1 history?
MS: Well, there is some history of myself in here, during the 90s. Naturally we look forward to have the closing loop some time in the future, with cars we have driven and which hopefully have success. That is naturally the aim.
NR: For me, I walked through the museum a couple of weeks ago and I was just amazed. The history of Mercedes is just amazing. The first Mercedes was a race car itself. As a German it's just very special to driver a silver arrow and it's going to be a great year.
Q: When you learned that Michael was going to be your team mate, how much reassurance did you have to seek from the likes of Norbert (Haug), and Ross and Nick (Fry), that you wouldnt just become a number two driver?
NR: Of course there was a little bit of doubt in me, because Michael has a very good relationship with Ross and all that. But to be very honest, recently I had a lot of discussions with Norbert and Ross and I'm very, very confident and comfortable that we will both have the same opportunities, same car, same everything. So that's fantastic. I think it's in the race philosophy of Mercedes, and the way Ross wants to do it, so that's the way it's going to be.
Q: Nico, when you signed for Mercedes - or to be precise for Brawn - did you have any clues about who would be you team mate?
NR: Yeah, I was sure it was Jenson (Button).
Q: Nico, do you think this will be your year to shine, as you are now in a car that definitely has a winning pedigree? Could that be the year to make a really big step up?
NR: Yeah, definitely. This is the opportunity that I have been waiting for. I've had great years with Williams. It was a great time and I'm very thankful to the team and everything. But this is a very important step in my career and hopefully we'll have a winning car. Things are looking good at the moment and I just need to try and make the best of it. I'm confident it will be a very strong year for me.
Q: Michael, do you think it's looking tougher than in the years before your retirement, with Vettel coming on strong and Hamilton, and other drivers?
MS: I think the point is that you have probably, compared to the past, one team against which you had to compete, to two or three teams like now. But in the end it's going to be most likely one that you have to pinpoint and that you have to focus on. Last year I know it was different, but it's probably an exception. It might be, again, but it doesn't really matter.
Q: What about the young guys like Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton?
MS: Whether they are young or experienced doesn't really matter, because when you are in the car you don't look at how old he is, or who he is. It is about how can I be better than whoever it is.
Q: Was it difficult consulting your family and children about becoming a racing driver again?
MS: I mean, naturally, I had a deep discussion with my wife. And it is good to have this. My wife is very down to earth, as we both are, but she sees things from a little bit of a distance. She very easily mentioned the pros and the cons, and at the end of the day she left the decision on me. It is something that helps you to find a decision.
Q: Signing for Mercedes-Benz means for you to come back home. But doesnt it feel a bit strange not to wear a red shirt?
MS: It is simply the fact that quite a lot of my history and part of my heart is red. You cannot forget or deny all of the good moments we have had together. And I really look forward to again seeing some of my friends who I have been together with for so long. I still have regular contact, and Stefano (Domenicali) every so often phones me up, and he just invited me for the skiing week which is a very private thing that we do amongst the Ferrari family. So, I am still friends with them and this will never stop. We will compete, yes, but it doesnt mean that we have to forget anything that happened in the past.
Q: When Ross contacted you in November, did you know what was it all about right away?
MS: Yes, because quite honestly, we had been almost every year in contact. When he went to Honda at the time, he sort of suggested that there was an option, but I wasn't ready for it. We always kept in contact, and saw each other at the races and we had loose contact - sometimes it was a serious question from him and sometimes it was a joke. In Abu Dhabi, he sort of touched already a little bit about this subject, but not deeply. We were just celebrating mainly, and then he called me. Knowing that he calls me at this time of the year, and you know what is going on in the business, you knew what was going to be his question.
Q: Nico, what are your feelings about a German national team?
NR: I think it shouldn't be a big focus, but I think on a side thing it is a fantastic thing. Mercedes GP, Petronas and two German drivers - I think it is great. And I hope we can encourage the German fans to be even more supportive of us. Of course, with Michael arriving at the team, surely the team will have a lot of support - and I look forward to having as much support as possible. And we are a little bit up against an English team, with McLaren, so hopefully we can win that battle.
Q: Michael, what is the biggest difference for adapting to a return to Formula One?
MS: You have to experience this. None of us has driven these cars, or driven with such heavy fuel loads. But it is honestly a little uncomfortable that you know you can have a car light for a qualifying simulation and then you must put in so much fuel. But it is what it is, it is for everybody, and you have to get used to it - to adapt your driving style for a compromise at the beginning of the race, with the fuel to the end of the race without the fuel. It is the same for everybody and we just have to get on with it.
Q: Nico, a lot of the media attention is on Michael Schumacher. Do you see this as a benefit to you because you can just get on quietly with your job?
NR: Of course from one side, yes. Obviously it is also demanding to be present in the media, and to do the work, and always be polite and things like that. Sometimes it can get demanding, so from that side, it is a good thing for me that I can concentrate a bit more on the racing, working with the team and hopefully on winning races.
Q: Michael, the desire within you to win another title - is it far greater now than in those days when you were winning the titles with Ferrari?
MS: It is tough to call it greater. I have always been focused, motivated and determined, and that is what it is now. There is no more and no less.
Q: Michael, have you in any way changed over the last three years? Are you more relaxed? More dedicated? More concentrated?
MS: I guess so. I think it is a nature that happens with gaining experience, that you sort of judge things from a slightly different angle. It does happen. I hope to be positive, and we will find out.
Q: When you assess your situation as a whole, is it a case of proving that age is no barrier to success?
MS: No. I have nothing to prove to anyone about my age. I just have to prove to myself that I am obviously still able. But the main reason I am doing this is because I am thrilled about it. I feel big excitement to just drive and compete at the highest level of motorsport. I have been doing it for two or three years in go-karts, and other sections, which was great. But now I say why not do something at a higher level.
Q: Is it not quite true that no refuelling is new to everybody, because you did it in your first years in F1. Are there any memories left from this time?
MS: Yes, it is true, but it is so long ago and the cars certainly are quite different to what they used to be. But nevertheless the rules do evolve, and whatever the rules, we drivers have to adapt to it. And I think most of us, and Nico as well, he has some experience, even if his career is shorter to mine. I don't think it matters too much. The car is going to be heavy, you have to watch the tyres probably initially more than you do at the end. You have to play the strategy, you have to gain the experience and how we best use these rules to our advantage against the other teams. But it is always the matter of adapting to the circumstance - that is always the key factor.