APRIL 3, 2004
BAHRAIN GP - SATURDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
SATURDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 3 APRIL 2004
1. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1m30.139s
2. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1m30.530s (+ 0.391s)
3. Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), 1m30.581s (+ 0.442s)
Q: Michael, it looked as if it has been a reasonably hard two days' work so far. Ross Brawn was saying yesterday that perhaps the circuit characteristics here do not favour your car particularly well.
Michael SCHUMACHER: Well, possibly. But all that matters is that we are where we are and we finally got everything together, although I wouldn't say that was one of my best laps, honestly. Nevertheless it was enough.
Q: Are you talking about your own performance or are you saying you could have got more from the car given more time for set-up?
Schumacher: I think we all sort of struggled in some way to get the perfect lap in. All of us somewhere, somehow, lost time I guess because it is very tricky to get everything out of this circuit because it is very demanding.
Q: Are you talking about it being very dirty off line for example?
Schumacher: It's not about that, I mean, I don't think too many of us went off line. It is just that it is very tricky even on line because it is a technically difficult circuit.
Q: Rubens, Michael seemed to be a little bit quicker on sector three, certainly on the times. How was it from your point of view?
Rubens BARRICHELLO: Well, I had a reasonable lap but I didn't have a very quick one. I had a little bit of a problem with the brakes on the first session so I didn't expect it to be that different and the brakes were a lot better so in many ways I was a little bit too conservative and the last corner was pretty much where I lost it. Michael had a phenomenal sector three where I was a little bit too conservative and that is where I lost the time.
Q: Juan Pablo, how has qualifying been for you?
Juan Pablo MONTOYA: It was good the first two sectors, you know, and I think the lap itself was very good until I got to the last corner. I just had a bit too much understeer when I went in and had to work on the throttle and all the time was lost. If you look at Ralf I lost four tenths to Ralf in the last sector but luckily I made enough time in the first two sectors to be third.
Q: Michael, here we are in Bahrain for the first time. There has been talk about problems with sand or heat, just give us your take on the circuit and the weekend so far.
Schumacher: I think we have found a very well prepared circuit for the conditions and the situation here. You imagine the time they had available and how much time they had to build the circuit. Everyone I have heard so far is very happy in coming here, the circuit is difficult, it is technically demanding, but that is what we are looking for - we don't look for easy business - and I hope we are going to be able to have a good show for all the spectators. It is a new country where we deliver Formula One and it would be good to show something to those people.
Q: Michael, we saw one or two little wisps of smoke from the tyres - does that mean you were right on the limit or just a fraction over it?
Schumacher: Probably more a fraction over it than on it.
Q: Would that have lost you time?
Schumacher: I think all of us, after today's qualifying on a technically difficult circuit, a sharp-edged circuit, we can say that in the end.
Q: So how confident were you of a good time during qualifying today?
Schumacher: I was confident we would fight for pole, whether it would happen or not happen I thought it was going to be very close and it probably would have been.
Q: Because you have had one or two problems, you have gone off the circuit a couple of times, but that has just been finding the limit has it?
Schumacher: I think none of us can say it hasn't happened to him today or yesterday. I think it is the nature of the circuit. You do try and the conditions do change through the run and it might just be a bit too much and a bit too much is out in the dust.
Q: Is it going to be as precarious in the race itself?
Schumacher: I think it will be something to be difficult to handle during the race.
Q: Is that because of its slipperiness or the technicality?
Schumacher: Yeah, it is simply because it is so slippery as soon as you get off line a little bit and the nature of the circuit itself, with the tyre and the heat, is already slippery so as a combination it makes it tricky.
Q: Rubens, you went relatively early. Do you think that was a disadvantage? Did it affect things at all?
Barrichello: I am not so sure. I had a look and there was a difference of three degrees. Probably the cloud helped towards the end but it doesn't really matter. I was actually surprised that the Williams didn't set the times they were setting this morning as well as BAR. I had a reasonable run, possibly I could have gone faster if I was later in the session but even so that is part of the past already.
Q: It seems as though the second two sectors are more important. Is that the case or not?
Barrichello: I think very honestly, like Michael said, the track is very difficult technically so if you make a mistake on turns one and two or four you try to overcome the problem and then you overdo it. And by overdoing it you run just a little bit off line and you make a mistake. That is why the people who didn't set a good time on sector one were not able to recuperate the time more than anything else.
Q: You talked about brake problems just now. You had brake problems in the previous race; other people have had brake problems here. Is it a problem you have got sorted, first of all, for the race itself?
Barrichello: I think so. On the first run, to be honest, they were not prepared enough for the lap, and on the second run they were too prepared. So I was in the middle of second guessing what I should do in terms of braking and the conditions to go to the corner. The balance of the car itself is very good and I am quite happy with the brakes so I think I have a good brake package for tomorrow's race.
Q: Juan Pablo, as Rubens just mentioned, Williams were expected to do a little better. Are you disappointed in getting third?
Montoya: I think it is better than second. I think looking at Michael's last sector and what we had done in the first sector it looked very hard to make up the time. The first two sectors were very good and it actually cost me more through the last corner when I tried to carry just a bit more speed and had too much understeer. I had to just work with the throttle and lost all the time on the straight. So from that point of view it was a bit disappointing but I think seeing as the track is so dirty on the right hand side - nobody has actually run through there - it is actually better.
Q: What about the factors for the race itself? What is the first corner going to be like?
Montoya: Ah, interesting, you know! It will be pretty good. We have been getting pretty good starts. Apart from the first start, where we had a problem with the clutch, the last race was very good so it will be interesting to see what Rubens can do from the dirty side on Michael.
Q: And going off line, say, to overtake backmarkers?
Montoya: It is going to be pretty interesting. It is going to cost you quite a bit of time because I think the tyre is going to pick up so much rubber it is going to take a bit of time to clean.
Q: Do you think your tyres clean off as well or better than the Bridgestones?
Montoya: I don't know - I have never driven a Bridgestone. It is difficult to say.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action ): Michael, do you feel that you're driving better than ever in your career? Do you think you're on top of your game now, in pure driving terms?
Schumacher: The reason you ask that is because I'm doing consistently well this year, whereas last year I was a little bit more inconsistent. But I think a lot is down to the car, honestly, and maybe the way I work with my engineer and everything. I just get more together. I do feel easier, yeah, but whether it makes me faster or not faster I've no idea. The car is just easier to work with and to get the maximum out of it.
Q: (Mark Fogarty): I guess that was my point, whether you feel, within yourself, that every lap out there that you do, it comes easier than perhaps at any time in your career.
Schumacher: Not at any time in my career, but compared to last year.
Q: (Matthias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell): How would you compare the track conditions from yesterday to today?
Montoya: Yeah, it's getting cooler as the afternoon goes on. Qualifying started at 2.30, it was halfway through to 2.30 and you could see that track conditions started to go down.
Q: I heard somebody say that they felt that it was going to be fairly green at the start of each day; was it fairly green at the beginning today?
Montoya: Not really, not for us.
Barrichello: The best time out on the circuit was this morning.
Montoya: Yes, actually. The grip level then was actually incredible.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport): Question to Michael and Juan Pablo. Watching the TV, we didn't understand the little battle between you two in this morning's second session. Could you explain what happened?
Schumacher: We were trying to simulate race conditions!
Montoya: Yeah. It's pretty good, isn't it?
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo): This question is to Juan. Did you have the same problem, understeer, in sector three this morning?
Montoya: No, it was good. I always have a little bit of understeer through there, it's the tendency of the corner when it goes downhill a little bit, but I think I carried too much speed to be honest.
Q: (Nikel Tanija - Young Times): This is to all of you. You have driven this track quite a few times now. Where would you say this track is lacking and where would you see that it is better than other tracks?
Schumacher: I wouldn't say there's any reason to say that it's lacking because it's very good in terms of run-off areas. We have seen a lot of offs during the days. I don't know if any of us have hit the wall, I don't remember. I don't think so, because the run-off areas are so good and it's technically demanding, so from a race driver point of view, it's a success.
Barrichello: For me, I think that the only thing that the track is actually lacking is that we need more races. It's brand new, the track will get better, so it's not lacking anything. It's just that as we have more races here, I think the track will eventually get even better. So there's no downside right now.
Montoya: I think it's very good. You can see people going off because the car is so technical. It's a circuit where not many people got a clean lap in qualifying. Maybe they got the first one, but not the second one. I don't think anybody really got in two very good laps. And it shows that if you push the car, if you're 95 per cent or 98 per cent it's quite easy to get a lap in but if you try to really get the maximum out of the car, making a mistake here is quite easy and it's quite dusty as well. If you get into the dirt you just go straight off.
Q: (Mark Forgarty): I have a couple of questions for Michael and for Rubens. Michael, in a few weeks you'll be back at Imola. It's the tenth anniversary of Ayrton Senna's death. Can you tell us how you will feel? How difficult or significant will this anniversary be?
Schumacher: It's a little bit difficult to... I mean, anyway, once you think about it, it's hard to remember what has happened, but on the other side... put it this way, I don't really want to talk about it too much.
Q: (Mark Forgarty) Ok, it's something that's going to come up. Rubens, is it an emotional time for you?
Barrichello: I think people are going the wrong way about this. I think ten years is to commemorate someone who was very special, so in a way, for me, he has always been present. It's not that I think about him every day but being a Brazilian and living the emotion of being a Brazilian, you live with Ayrton Senna every day. So I don't think that ten years is any different than the ninth year or eleventh year, as far as I'm concerned. For me, going there is going to be the same as it's been during the last few years.
Q: (Mark Fogarty): Sorry Michael, you may have understood me. The ten year anniversary will be significant to many people and what Rubens is saying is quite true...
Montoya: I think it's more about celebrating his life than his death, to be honest, and I think that's maybe where you need to understand that it happened a long time ago, it's ten years. I was a massive fan - I'm still a big fan of Senna. When you go there, you know it happened there, but you're not thinking ?oh, it happened here'. For example, last week I was in Dubai doing an auction for the Senna family and it's about celebrating his life and trying to help the family with the Foundation more than anything else.
Q: (Mark Fogarty): Well, you're right Juan, I'm actually trying to get some recollections of Ayrton at a very poignant time. I can't avoid it, it's going to come up. I didn't invent the tenth anniversary thing. So I'm asking Michael and Rubens their recollections of Ayrton and thank you, you gave some input as well. So, sorry Michael, do you get the gist of what I'm trying to get at? I'm not so much asking about the time and the day and what the feelings may be, but it's a particular time when we'll all be remembering Ayrton and I guess what I'm asking is what are your recollections of Ayrton?
Schumacher: The main one to me is the one in 1980 when I saw him in karting, and for me, that's the biggest recollection I have. I didn't follow him there, but it was something outstanding and I don't think it's necessary to speak about what he has achieved and then afterwards - that is very obvious, but for me, that has been a very special moment.
Q: (Mark Fogarty): What happened that was so special, then?
Schumacher: No, to see him driving. The ability he had, compared to everyone else driving in the field.
Q: (Nikel Tanija): Which one track would you say is the most challenging you have ever raced on and how would you compare Bahrain to that particular track?
Barrichello: If we drive it as fast as you talk, we're going to be on pole every day, I tell you! Everyone has a challenge, I think this one is pretty good on challenges, even though there are not many high speed corners, but it's really difficult to get it right and even though in turns five and six you don't brake as much, it's still a nice corner.
Schumacher: I think everybody knows I'm in love with Spa, so that stays number one, but this is not far off.
Montoya: As Rubens says, each track has a particular thing about it. You would say that there is only one really fast corner but it's still quite a good challenge, it's very demanding, there are a lot of places where you're turning and braking at the same time, so I think having a well-balanced car here makes quite a lot of difference.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport): This morning the Ferrari was a little bit away from the top; what changed, was it just strategy or did you change something in regulation of the car, or the track, or something like this?
Schumacher: I guess it's a matter of who got their laps in on new tyres or not, and I don't think either Rubens or myself got in good lap times on our new tyres, so what you saw this morning wasn't too representative in terms of overall lap time.
Q: (Livio Oricchio): The question is to Juan Pablo. Is it realistic for you to expect a good battle with the Ferrari drivers tomorrow?
Montoya: It's hard to tell. You don't really know what everybody did today or anything. You look at Malaysia where we just tried to finish close to them and we had a close battle. Whereas here? I don't know. I don't know how the tyres are going to behave, it's so difficult, but if everything goes according to plan, hopefully we can at least challenge them, but if we don't we can try to take some points and try to challenge them at the next race.
Q: (Mohammed Kayani - Arabia Motors) Michael and Rubens. We just wanted to know about the tyre compound; there has been a lot of speculation about Bridgestone not performing well due to the weather and the heat. How are the tyres faring so far?
Schumacher: Good. We're on pole position. We won the race in Malaysia - it wasn't too cold there and that's much better than we've seen in the past, and certainly down to Bridgestone improving their game.
Barrichello: I think the story of Bridgestone not performing well in heat conditions is just part of the past. It happened before, it doesn't happen any more, and we have a fantastic tyre for both conditions, so we're quite happy.
Q: (Marwan Rassi - Future TV) Question to Michael? Are you chasing the pole position record, it's seems you're always putting a few kilos (of fuel) less than the top drivers?
Schumacher: Does that seem to be? Yeah? I thought in Australia he had less than me, actually.
Q: (Marwan Rassi) No, at least with Rubens. Last race you pitted beforehand...
Schumacher: Yeah, true.
Q: (Marwan Rassi) You always say you're not interested in records, but that's the only one missing.
Schumacher: I thought I won both races, so I think it is...
Q: (Marwan Rassi) No, the only record missing, the pole position record.
Schumacher: Yes, I know, but I guess you know myself - maybe not long enough, actually - that records don't drive me, don't push me. If they happen, obviously I'm very glad they happen but that's not what I'm aiming for.
Q: (Nikel Tanija) This is just a little humour: I would like to ask you guys how many speeding tickets have you managed on the road?
Schumacher: Usually they come afterwards, when the results are taken from all the photos. I haven't seen any photos taken of me! I haven't seen any photos yet, so...
Montoya: I know one. The rest? No never.
Barrichello: I had one last week in Brazil but I was talking with my Vodafone at traffic lights and then they gave me a ticket for that. I sent it to Vodafone.
Q: (Joe Saward - Grandprix.com): Talking about the challenge of the track, it's interesting to see from the grid that the first four rows are team by team. Could you actually explain why that might be?
Schumacher: Maybe you could help us.
Q: (Joe Saward): No, it's an interesting point. It's Ferrari, followed by Williams, followed by BAR etc. It's curious that it would be like that because often that happens on certain tracks with certain layouts. You don't think that's significant?
Schumacher: I don't think so. I think that's coincidence.
Q: (Mark Fogarty): To all of you. Before we came here, one of the big talking points was sand on the track, going off on it, in the engines and all that but, correct me if I'm wrong, it doesn't seem to be an issue very much any more, so have there been no problems with this very fine sand that you have round here?
Schumacher: No, it's not a big issue. Everybody expected this flat area surrounded by sand, and a little bit of wind would blow it onto the circuit immediately, but it's not so sandy actually, it's a lot different to what I expected and the problem doesn't exist.
Q: (Mark Fogarty): That's my point, it's not an issue, is it?
Schumacher: None of us have been here before and neither have you, so...
Q: (Mark Fogarty) And the heat?
Montoya: I think the big difference is that it's very dry compared with Malaysia.
Q: (Niki Takeda - Formula PA): Question for Michael. I know you don't take anything for granted but how unnerving is it for you to see your silver competitors are not in your vicinity for the last few races? Is it a surprise, a relief?
Schumacher: It is, yes. I think it's a surprise for everybody to some degree but when things go wrong, they go wrong badly and unfortunately that's what's going on with Mercedes, for whatever reason, not only that, it's not the biggest competition package but they're quite unlucky as well, for whatever reason. You never discount teams such as those, from my point of view because they always have the capacity to be back.
Q: (Matthias Brunner): Michael you got a fine this morning for speeding in the pit lane, what happened? Did you push the button too late or...?
Schumacher: There was a mistake by me, not pushing the button. Yeah.
Q: (Livio Oricchio). For both Ferrari drivers: do you think the fact that Shell produced the asphalt here and also at Fiorano has helped you and can help you in the race?
Schumacher: I think it's the same as in Hockenheim and at some other circuits, actually, so that situation is comparable. I think we'll know more after tomorrow's race whether that's good or not good. But usually Shell supports us very strongly, but whether they have any influence in this area, I doubt it.