OCTOBER 10, 2004
JAPANESE GP - SUNDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
SUNDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 10 OCTOBER 2004
1. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1h24m26.985s
2. Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), 1h24m41.083s (+14.098s)
3. Jenson BUTTON (BAR), 1h24m46.647s (+19.662s)
Q: Michael, it looked like a copybook race today, from the pole, a difficult qualifying session earlier today and then start to finish.
Michael SCHUMACHER: Yeah. We honestly sort of pre-decided the race at qualifying because it was pretty clear that we would have a pretty strong race pace but qualifying was the doubt, in particular because it was damp conditions and we can have problems in these conditions. As we got pole position there, I was pretty confident that, if the start went well, I could do it. But I had Ralf in my mirrors for quite a while and the gap wasn't increasing as I was sort of expecting because they seemed to find a really good race pace too. But luckily he pitted earlier and then, it was sort of clear how the race would go.
Q: There was quite a variety of strategies, probably because qualifying and the race was on the same day. Was that a concern before the race, what everyone else was up to?
M.Schumacher: Certainly, yes. It wasn't clear who would be how heavy because we had no indication from practice so we had to be flat-out in the beginning part of the race until the pit stops had been done and then we could judge who was on what strategy.
Q: And a trouble-free, incident-free race, except I think there was a Jordan stationary in the middle of the track on one of the laps you came past.
M.Schumacher: Yeah, but there was enough space, there was a yellow flag indication and I slowed sufficiently to make sure I could handle the situation and then it was straightforward.
Q: Ralf, your first proper podium of the year, good to see you back, and a trouble-free race and not too much traffic around you either, once Michael got away.
Ralf SCHUMACHER: Well, I mean, the start went okay and I was actually surprised I was able to follow Michael, we pitted a bit earlier but still, it was quite good. Then I had a lot of traffic. I came back in the middle of a pack, at the back of a pack basically, and I was a bit concerned. But it all worked out in the end, the car worked pretty well, the team did a great job in all the pit stops, they all went trouble-free and quick, and it was the right strategy for us, so I think it was a good weekend for us.
Q: What was it like following Michael in those early stages? Michael said he was a bit concerned how you were able to hang onto him. Did you feel you could match his pace?
R.Schumacher: Well, in the beginning sort of. He was still pulling away but, as he said, not as much as he might have expected. But I pitted four laps early so you would expect some difference anyway.
Q: Jenson, an interesting race for you too, you held off Taku for the first six laps. We didn't actually see what happened there - did you let him past or did he squeeze past on the lighter fuel load?
Jenson BUTTON: He was probably slowing me down actually because I was really struggling with rear grip on the first five or six laps, big oversteer on pretty much every corner I came to until the graining started. So he came past through the quick left-hander, Dunlop, and there was no use trying to fight him at all or anything because I knew I was on a different strategy.
Q: As it turned out your two-stop beat his three-stop.
Button: Yeah, the strategies were very, very similar in race time but I went for the two-stop because it worked for me very well at the last race and I am used to driving the car when it is pretty heavy. It worked pretty well but compared to these two we were quite a way off today.
Q: Where do you think the difference was with Ralf today? Do you think it was in that early stage?
Button: In the first stint, definitely, I mean, he pulled out a huge gap in that first stint. Ralf stopped, I think, six laps before me, but even so his pace was just, erm, the difference was huge.
Q: Michael, a unique day today, qualifying and racing on the same day. What is your verdict of how it went?
M.Schumacher: Yeah, I think that this day goes down to history in Formula One. I am pretty sure some people will think whether we should continue to do it that way. I have to say it was exciting but I prefer the old style!
Q: Michael, well done. It's been a race or two since you were on the top step. What is it like to be back to your winning ways?
M.Schumacher: Yeah. It is obviously nice, for other reasons, particularly that it is Bridgestone's home Grand Prix and we wished to do well for them and we did. We did very superb in being basically fastest all weekend and finally get the win and it is the way to pay back something to our partners.
Q: It really was a dominant performance, you were up to 24 seconds ahead of Ralf at one time.
M.Schumacher: Yeah, it didn't look like it in the beginning stages but then he pitted so much earlier and it was pretty clear which way it would go.
Q: At the end you eased up quite a lot. I know you do tend to ease up in the closing stages but even to the extent of letting Felipe Massa un-lap himself. Was there any problem there, or was that just normal?
M.Schumacher: No, I mean, I was doing a certain pace when Felipe was in front of me until he hit Jacques he was sort of going the same pace, or slightly quicker. But then he got stuck behind Jacques and I was closing then and they let me through. Then I was just keeping to the same pace and, as Felipe was slightly quicker, I let him through so he could continue his race.
Q: But otherwise it was an incident-free and trouble-free race.
M.Schumacher: Yeah, pretty much.
Q: Ralf, how good was the car considering the lack of preparation time?
R.Schumacher: It was good, it was even good in the wet, I must say. Even last year the car was good here. We expected to be reasonable. I must admit that we did not expect to be that strong in comparison to other teams. Some of it might have been the strategy, to look after it. We maybe pitted a little earlier than we needed to considering the pace we were able to go, but it still worked out. It was pretty hard because I had some traffic in the race but luckily they had to pit a bit earlier and then I could pull out the gap I needed again.
Q: Did you feel you were on the right specification Michelin?
R.Schumacher: You are always on the right tyre if you have a Michelin on the car, that's pretty clear.
Q: Yes, I see! Your brother told us what he thought it was like to qualify and race on the same day; what did you think of it?
R.Schumacher: I thought it was no problem at all. As long as you don't throw you car out, sometimes you might need a bit more preparation time. I think it was not a problem but somehow I think having it on Saturday is a bit better for various reasons.
Q: What did you think of it, Jenson, having all this action on one day?
Button: It is not really much different, is it? I had a little sleep in between so it felt like two days for me. But it's been a good day for us. It's BAR's hundredth race and to get on the podium is a great result, I think and with Taku in fourth we have got some fantastic points and pulled away from Renault, which is good.
Q: Tell us about that start?
Button: It was quite tight. Mark (Webber) got a pretty poor start and it was good to see that we've sorted out our little problems and I was able to come from fifth to third. It was very tight but a lot of fun.
Q: Have you heard Taku's reaction?
Button: No, I haven't. Why.
Q: I just wondered how tight he thought it was?
Button: He's used to that, he's used to close racing, isn't he? (Laughter)
Q: So do you feel the car was handling as well as it could be?
Button: The car was very difficult to drive on the first six laps of the race and I was really really worried, about the balance. I had a lot of oversteer, very very unusual, big snaps. When I started to grain the front tyres, the balance came back slightly then when the fuel started coming out of the car the balance felt very good. I think it was just the dirty track at the start of the race that hampered me a little bit. After that the car was reasonably good, consistent, just not on the pace of these two.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mathias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell) Michael, you said you preferred the old qualifying system than what happened today, why?
M.Schumacher: Yes. It's strange if you think all the time you go straight out on Sunday morning and have to do a qualifying lap without any preparation, anything, if you had different weather conditions. We have a whole weekend in time so there is no reason to rush through and just have everything on one day, as some people wish to. That's my point of view. It puts more stress on the mechanics and the preparation.
Q: (Alastair Moffitt - PA News) Jenson, BAR have now gone 16 points clear of Renault with just one race to go. Is that battle for second now effectively over and how proud will that make you feel, how much of an achievement is that if that comes off?
Button: It is still not impossible, but it is pretty much, looking at the pace of the Ferraris. It's great to have 16 points if that is the case and the last few races, I think we have shown a very good team effort, where we've had both cars well up in the points and that's really made a difference for us.
Q: (Alastair Moffitt) It is also your 10th podium of the season with just one race to go, what's your assessment of the season? It's been pretty spectacular compared to previous ones, hasn't it?
Button: Yeah, you are not far from that. It has definitely been a big step forward, for more than one reason, there's been lots of reasons for that. I have been on the podium 10 times which is great but I still haven't had my first win. It's probably not the best season to have a quick car really, because the Ferrari seems to be outstandingly quick, so it is a little bit disappointing that we haven't got that win yet but maybe in two weeks. We are obviously going to try for that.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Michael, after two months you have come back to winning; what's your feeling? Was there extra pressure, extra excitement to win after such a long time, three Grands Prix?
R.Schumacher: Yeah, a lot of time.
Button: Yeah, it's terrible. (Laughter) Have to give up. (More laughter)
M.Schumacher: We have nothing, in a way, to win other than the single Grand Prix and that's actually a good thing and coming here to Suzuka which is a circuit I like very much. It is just nice, and great. I didn't think too much about what happened at the last Grand Prix, I don't really take that into account, questioning anything. In this way, there wasn't really the extra pressure except the one we had to do well for Bridgestone here.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi) Michael, the next Grand Prix is your teammate's home Grand Prix. If there is a chance, do you want to help him to win this Grand Prix? He said winning it is like a dream for him, he always said that for him it would be like winning a World Championship.
M.Schumacher: Yeah, I guess so, everybody likes to win his home Grand Prix but I am sorry but I feel like I want to win another Grand Prix as well this year. (Laughter) I'm pretty sure he will be very strong. He likes the competition and he likes it if he earns it without any support, I am pretty sure of that. But first we have to do the job.
Q: (Steve Cooper - F1 Racing) Jenson, you said you are absolutely confident that you will be going to Williams next year. Are you still 100 per cent confident and if so, do you have any regrets about leaving BAR now that they are almost certain to clinch second in the championship?
Button: I don't really see there is any need to comment on this when we know that it's not up to me at the moment. The CRB hearing's next weekend, so I think we can wait for another six days before we get an answer on that.
Q: You're less confident now than you were then?
Button: Did I say that? I didn't say that at all.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi) This question is to Ralf, because after four months you've have come back and you're on the podium. How do you feel?
R.Schumacher: Certainly, it is great. I had a good weekend in China, as well. I was just a bit unlucky with what happened in the race. We were running in fifth and I think that was pretty much where the pace of the car was at that time. Certainly it is great. I have always said that I would like to come back for the last few races to score the team some good points and give them a podium, which we achieved today and hopefully another time in Brazil and then I go in peace.