SAN MARINO GP - SATURDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE

SATURDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 23 APRIL 2005

DRIVERS:
1. Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLaren), 1m19.886s
2. Fernando ALONSO (Renault), 1m19.889s
3. Michael SCHUMACHER (Ferrari), 1m20.260s

TV UNILATERALS

Q: Kimi, a great looking lap but incredibly close between you and Fernando.

Kimi RAIKKONEN: Yeah, the start of the lap for me was slightly better than Fernando's and he almost caught me on the last sector but it is enough. It would have been good to have a gap between me and him tomorrow but we will see what we can do.

Q: The speed was there in Bahrain, perhaps a small mistake in qualifying there but no mistakes today.

Raikkonen: Yeah, but the car is much better than it was in Bahrain. This circuit seems to suit the car much better than the previous circuits and it was already good yesterday straight out of the box and I am pretty happy with it.

Q: Fernando, the opposition is drawing closer as we get to the European season.

Fernando ALONSO: Yes, we knew that. Unfortunately that was the case today but, anyway, we did our job, the weekend is difficult for us, we know. Imola is not historically a perfect circuit for the Renault car, it is much better this year over the kerbs so we are happy and we are there. Okay, we are second, but we are still competitive, we are still fighting for the pole position and hopefully tomorrow for the victory so even in bad circumstances we are there, so we are extremely happy with the performance we are doing here this weekend.

Q: Really fighting for the pole position, it was so close between you and Kimi, did you think the pole was on when you went out for that lap?

Alonso: I didn't know what Jarno was doing and I knew Kimi was 19.8 and on my display I saw the sectors and I realised it was very close and I did a maximum in the last section to try to get the pole but it was not possible. But, you know, for tomorrow we have a good gap to the guys behind us so maybe we can play a bit with the strategy as well.

Q: Maybe a good gap, Michael, going out as early as you did - a legacy to your retirement in Bahrain - you must be very, very pleased with that lap time.

Michael SCHUMACHER: Yeah, indeed, we have been showing very consistently a strong performance over the weekend with qualifying, which is a little bit of a weak spot after we have seen all the races, we have had a weak spot obviously in the race in mid to the end of the race and I think we have worked very well on that one, so overall I am pretty happy.

Q: Can you talk us through the mood at Ferrari in the build-up to a very important race for the team, taking into account the start to the year that you have had.

Schumacher: After this particular start everyone was extremely motivated seeing the performance possibility with the new car in Bahrain. We worked very, very hard, the whole test team, the drivers, the engineers, mechanics, everyone really pushed extremely hard and I think we can see the result here. We are in a good mood, qualifying confirmed what we have been doing so far and now we look forward to the race tomorrow.

Q: One qualifying session before the race to go tomorrow, of course, but can you just give us your thoughts on the race tomorrow? Can you do it?

Schumacher: I think we will be there. It is going to be tight and tough but I think we have an opportunity.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Kimi, you haven't won yet, but McLaren are a lot more competitive. What's made the difference?

Raikkonen: It's a different circuit, I think that's the biggest difference. The car seems to be good here. It's not very easy over the kerbs, but that's normal for us here, every year it's the same situation. We may not be the best over the kerbs but overall the speed is good. I'm very happy with the car. It was already good yesterday and I think in the race we are usually pretty good. Now we've got qualifying right we should be in a very good position.

Q: Michael has been quoted that his World Championship starts here; does yours also start here?

Raikkonen: No, it started already, but of course we haven't been in the place where we would like to be but it's not over yet, there are many races to go and I have been in a similar situation before and we lost it in the end. So every point we can score is very good and important, so let's see what happens tomorrow because it depends what people are doing with the fuel loads and stuff like that in second qualifying. We will try to get it right.

Q: Ron Dennis says you've got a lot more parts coming for Barcelona; you must be fairly optimistic...

Raikkonen: Let's see. Hopefully that's the case. We are getting a new engine for the next race and some new parts and it all depends really what happens in testing and how well things work. But I think we will have some new things which should improve our speed.

Q: Fernando, you are second fastest, and yet you haven't had much running over the last couple of days; that must be encouraging.

Alonso: Yes, we prepared the weekend in quite a different way compared to the others with very little running, a different strategy from the team and even with that, as I said before, I'm really pleased with second position so close to pole, because historically this has been quite a bad circuit for our car, especially on the kerbs, and we weren't competitive in the last two or three years and even without the kerbs, it's nice to drive again. We can push in a good way and we're still there, fighting for pole position in equal conditions to everybody. So tomorrow, as Kimi said, with fuel loads many things can change, but at the moment, we're again showing that we're competitive here.

Q: The competition is closing in on Renault after their three wins; who are you most worried about? Ferrari? McLaren? BAR?

Alonso: All of them. I think we have to be careful of all of them, because we saw Kimi was the fastest car today, the fastest driver. We saw the improvement that Ferrari have made. They are very consistent with the lap time, they are also very quick on a single timed lap so they will be there as well tomorrow, and also BAR and Williams - they have also shown that they are quick today. So there are a lot of things important to the podium positions and it will be a very interesting race.

Q: The track temperatures were considerably cooler at the end of the session than when Michael went out; did that help or hinder you?

Alonso: I don't know, probably at the end of qualifying the track was in a better condition because it was cleaner and there was more rubber down, but it's true that it was a little bit cloudy, and I was a little bit scared about the rain and I was lucky that we didn't have any rain, but it was probably more windy because the clouds were coming, so I don't know, honestly, what the conditions were at the beginning.

Q: Michael, do you think it affected you, would you have preferred warmer or cooler?

Schumacher: Put it this way, I would have preferred to try at the end, yes!

Q: So you don't think it made all that much difference?

Schumacher: How can we judge? It's difficult to say.

Q: One of the problems with Ferrari and Bridgestone has been the first lap performance, that one lap performance. Has that been cured, do you feel?

Schumacher: It has been improved but not cured.

Q: Ross Brawn said yesterday that there was no quick fix and yet here you are up in third place; it seems to have come good pretty quickly.

Schumacher: Yeh, but in Bahrain we were second in first qualifying, so I think the car is simply very good. We have obviously had a problem with the tyres not being consistent enough for the whole race. I think we've done good work on that so we're probably in good shape.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dusko Dragic - Ekipa) This circuit is one of the greatest in the calendar but its infrastructure is very bad. Fans, on some parts of the circuit, can easily climb over the walls and fences. Do you have any security worries at this circuit?

Raikkonen: No.

Schumacher: Honestly, we have to have this kind of circuit. They have so much tradition. If we only raced on new built-up circuits, we would miss out very quickly on traditional places. Whenever everything is perfect, it's not perfect either honestly. This has so much charm and I'm pleased for the reasons of the circuit and the environment. On the other hand I am also an ambassador of San Marino so there are plenty of reasons why I'm pretty happy and I have no safety concerns at all.

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