BAHRAIN GP - SATURDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
SATURDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - POST QUALIFYING - 11 MARCH 2006
1. Michael SCHUMACHER (Ferrari), 1m33.310s
2. Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), 1m33.579s
3. Jenson BUTTON (Honda), 1m32.603s
Q: Welcome back Michael, your first pole since Hungary '05.
Michael SCHUMACHER: Yeah, I've had to wait a long time to get back up here. Hard work in the meantime, an amazing result. All winter we knew that we seemed to have a good package but then you wait, very strongly for the final confirmation and here and now we have the confirmation for all the hard work. Every engineer, every mechanic has been giving everything to put us back up here and it's the best way to pay back all our guys. There's such a great feeling and emotion. It's been too long ago, too long time ago.
Q: And a bit of a race there with your team mate, 31.5s and then a 31.4s for the pole.
Schumacher: Yeah, absolutely. It was very obvious right from the beginning and even before: Ferrari - not without reason - took the decision to take Felipe on board. We knew about his qualities and today he has proven them. It's a great combination. We're getting on very well, very focused and I hope the success story will continue after a year's break.
Q: There was non-stop action from the outside; what was it like from your point of view? Sixth in the first two periods and then pole in the third.
Schumacher: Yeah, it has been very exciting, particularly in the first session as we wanted to leave it towards the end, then we had the red flag and we just got in the one lap in which it would have been very easy to make a mistake. From hero to zero wasn't very much at that moment. The second session was a little bit more straightforward: just be safe and play to stay in the top ten and then we had a good concept and a way to arrange ourselves to go for pole position. The team has worked very well. We have had some struggles over the winter, we couldn't do the whole programme that we sometimes wanted to do, but nevertheless we came here very focused, very concentrated and very organised.
Q: Felipe, turning to you, not only on the front row but the first time that you've ever qualified in the top three as well.
Felipe MASSA: Yeah, I'm really happy for that. I would say I'm very happy to be with the Ferrari team and feel comfortable here. It's amazing how the team works and I knew from the first test I did that it was going to be a much more competitive year for me, to show what I can do and it was definitely a great start. I was really happy to be in the top two in the first race of the season. As for my lap, I'm really happy to be second, but honestly, I have to thank Giancarlo (Fisichella) because he took away my pole position, because I was going to improve my lap time on the last run and I hit traffic, but anyway, great start. Hopefully we can always do this kind of qualifying and I think it's a great start for me, for everybody in the team.
Q: Jenson, you've been looking strong all winter and strong now: P3.
Jenson BUTTON: Yeah, it's quite interesting, the new qualifying system. I'm sure for the spectators and it is for us. It's always go, you're always doing something and it turned out reasonably well for us. It's quite difficult to get clean runs, especially in the last session which I think we all struggled to do a little bit, but I think that our strategy was very good in doing two sets of new tyres and yeah, it's good to be in the top three and hopefully we can improve on this tomorrow.
Q: What were the conditions actually like in that traffic period at the end, and also given the wind conditions today?
Button: It was pretty difficult out there today with the wind. It's coming from a completely different direction from yesterday. There's a lot of sand on the circuit, so it's very difficult to be consistent and when you're trying to do a fast lap on the edge, it's tough. But that's what it's all about, and it's great to be third. It's been a tough winter, very very long but very good for us and I think we will show that tomorrow.
Q: Michael, obviously a different format for the race tomorrow, tyre changing coming back into Formula One. Your thoughts on that?
Schumacher: I think it makes racing a little bit more interesting. You drive more on the edge, you push harder, you fight, you overtake, you take a little bit more risk so it's a good thing.
Q: Michael, a busy hour - or just over - did the strategies work out pretty much as you expected?
Schumacher: Obviously nobody could have expected the red flag in the first session and the session to be stopped. Except for that, I guess it was pretty normal.
Q: Nothing's normal at the moment, it's all pretty much up in the air, isn't it?
Schumacher: I'm pretty sure that the guys on TV who have to commentate on all this and explain it to the fans have had a hard job.
Q: Do you think we are going to see you do two stops for tyres in every race?
Schumacher: We will certainly stop more than we have been doing last year, no doubt! (Laughter)
Q: I meant in qualifying...
Schumacher: That depends very much on the strategy you think you need to apply to your own needs, honestly. We chose that strategy.
Q: Of course, the question is how many sets of tyres have you got left now?
Q: Your pole position total is now equal to the record. Do you have a comment to make on that?
Schumacher: It makes me proud, that's probably all I should and can say about it.
Q: Felipe was very very close in that qualifying...
Schumacher: Yep, I think that's the reason why Ferrari took him because we knew he's performing very very well and he will give fresh air to the team. As I've mentioned several times, I never expected him to be anywhere else than where he has shown himself to be. As I've said before, he had the possibility to go quicker but for traffic, and it's always a question of who can do what or whatever. Nevertheless, it's going to be a tight and nice race between us and pushing each other to good results.
Q: You weren't allowed to change the car very much, only the front wing and tyre pressures. Would you have liked to have made changes?
Schumacher: Being here, we knew pretty much what to expect and what to do so it certainly helped in this respect to know exactly what to do and not to move around other bits and pieces.
Q: Felipe, well done, it must be a really nice feeling...
Massa: It's a great feeling, fantastic feeling, fantastic opportunity to go to Ferrari and I think the team did a fantastic job in the winter tests to develop the car. We've had some issues with the car, but we saw straight away that the car was good and was quick and was performing a lot better than they were used to last year. So for me, it was a great opportunity. I think it is the best way to start the championship, not just starting in second place but also fighting. The pole position thing was really really good for me, and I have to say that I'm really happy and hopefully we can see each other many times.
Q: And so close to Michael as well.
Massa: Yeah, it was a great fight, I have to say, and on the last run, I had a little bit of traffic from Giancarlo and anyway it was a great fight and hopefully we can have this fight all the time.
Q: What about the track conditions, the wind as well?
Massa: Well, the track conditions were not easy, there was a really strong wind and it was not so easy to find the right balance so it was very very difficult and in a couple of corners you had understeer, and in other corners you had a lot of oversteer so it was very difficult to drive, but fortunately we didn't make a mistake and we just made a good lap.
Q: Jenson, obviously happy to be in the top three, but disappointed not to be on the front row?
Button: Yeah, I think that's the same for everyone who isn't on the front row. We all want to be on the front row and spearheading the grid tomorrow afternoon. But third place was good. I'm reasonably happy with that and it was good, I thought it was very exciting. I'm sure it was the same for all the fans out there watching, because it was non-stop for me. I was in and out of the garage, especially with Raikkonen's problem in the first session. It made it a very busy session, but it was good fun and it's nice to be up here in third position and it's just the normal thing which is the same for everyone: if the traffic is an issue, and it always has been with this sort of system but that's something we've got to sort out ourselves.
Q: But it's good to have the traffic back again!
Button: Yeah, I think so. It's great having runs and having to do them at certain times during the hour. I think that does make it extra exciting and we have to be out on the circuit to do the times and I think that's great, it's good for the fans and I'm sure it's going to make for some upsets this season and for some very different grids, I think.
Q: Interesting to see that amongst the three of you, you're from two teams that tested here before. Do you think that was significant?
Button: It might be. We have the experience on the tyres here and all the other teams don't. I think these two (Schumacher and Massa) probably had the best experience; they were here for nine days but also the weather was very up and down while we were here and it seems to be very different here for the race. It's very windy and there was a lot of sand on the circuit which makes it difficult to drive and I think that adds a little bit of excitement to it as well, trying to keep the car in a straight line on the straight. But yes, it's great that we've got a good position here for tomorrow and hopefully we can gain those two positions tomorrow.
Q: Would you like to have changed more in qualifying?
Button: No, not really. I think we had a good balance and in these conditions it's difficult because in some places, you've got quite a bit of understeer, in some places you've got quite a bit of oversteer. It matters which direction the wind is. I think we pretty much got the maximum out of the car, it was just getting the maximum out of the circuit, more than anything else.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mathias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell) Michael, last year you were very critical of qualifying - saying we changed the system far too many times. Would you say this is the right system to keep?
Schumacher: I don't think it matters what I think in this respect because it matters what the fans think and you write about it. It looks like after all the changes we have made we have something which is exciting and I hope everybody likes it. For us, we can deal with it and it makes it even exciting for us and gives you more opportunities and is very fair if you have changing weather conditions and so on. In a way I think it's pretty good.
Q: (Niki Takeda - Formula PA) Michael, how much did this pole mean to you after such a long period of not being in front?
Schumacher: Honestly, after the weekend was progressing, I was not exactly expecting it. I thought we would be a little behind. I thought we might be touching the front but now to be here and actually have Felipe in the front row and be so competitive, that's a very nice surprise, in particular if you imagine what happened last year and if you think about what is the normal trend. When you have such a story of success, usually there is a downtrend, and when you have a downtrend, to move it to an uptrend is probably the most difficult to achieve this and it's an amazing result for all who have worked so hard for that result, and to be able to give that and give this extra motivation to keep on going. We have good reasons to believe that the whole season is looking strong for us. We are looking very strong and every so often we get updates on the car and really it's the best, best way to pay (them) back for all this hard work and really I'm so happy for all of us.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) Michael, you said recently that last year you struggled to get the best out of yourself without the car being fully competitive without the car being the best. Do you think this year you can see yourself getting back to your peak?
Schumacher: It certainly helps to just be at the peak, absolutely. As I said, very often when you just have no chance, it's very difficult to get this extra little bit out and you feel it's not worth it. Certainly it's worth it now.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Michael, The norm in Formula One is for drivers to wear the same caps and overalls for example. Now, apart from a couple of personal sponsors, you and Felipe are both wearing totally different sets of overalls and whatever. Will that be the Ferrari norm for this year?
Q: Yes. If you look at Felipe's shoulders, you'll see they're a different style to yours.
Schumacher: They're both the same colour. There are a couple of differences, and that's where you personalise yourself. That has always been, but maybe it's been less obvious for example.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Michael is this result one in the eye for many people - including many of the teams - who didn't put Ferrari in the calculations pre-season?
Schumacher: I don't think it's important what other people think and mean about us. It's more important what we do ourselves and what we have suffered last year and the amount of work we have put in to satisfy ourselves is important.
Q: There is a suggestion that leading up to this race the team weren't showing their hand? We call it sandbagging.
Schumacher: It's difficult to understand the question.
Button: Were you driving around slowly on purpose?
Schumacher: There are always certain thoughts about what you might or might not do. If you go testing, you try to explore what you have available. Initially when we were testing with other teams, we didn't have the full aero package or everything together and again the same here when we've been together just a day. BAR (Honda) left and our bits had just arrived. It's not purposefully done but it's to do with the timing. That's the way it was and the car certainly had improved. It was obviously very good for us to stay in Italy after that instead of going to Valencia and working six days instead of three days. All this sort of pays out.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Jenson, in the past few years, it's fair to say a victory would have been a bonus. Is there a new mentality in the team now? If you don't win this year, will it be a failure?
Button: I think we'd be very disappointed if we don't get a win this year, but whatever we feel at the end of the season or next year, we're just concentrating on the moment we have a good package and had a fantastic winter and we're just looking forward to tomorrow. If we don't get that win that we're looking for then so be it. We'll be back out challenging again in Malaysia next weekend.
Q: (Hemu Gorde - Khaleej Times) Michael, how much of the success of your pole position do you attribute to the new Ferrari and Jenson, how do you find the challenge now with the Ferraris on pole?
Button: It's obviously very good for them, and not so good for us. They look very strong but we still don't know what people are doing with fuel loads or anything. Tomorrow is the day that counts.
Schumacher: In these days, we drivers are on pretty close levels and it matters very much on the car you have and what you can get out of it, so it's a big tribute to have competitive car because you saw last year that without one, you can do nothing.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Felipe, when you joined Ferrari, did you expect to be this quick in your first Grand Prix?
Massa: I expected to be competitive. I was always competitive in my career and I was always trusting what I can do, so I expect always to be competitive and that is my goal always. For sure, if you look at the championship last year, you have some feelings that I was not so easy to change completely and to make a very good car, but if you look the other way, you can see that Ferrari is a very good team and they are able to do that because they have very good people and they are always able to work towards improving the car. Last year was a mistake and there were a lot of combinations that made the car not so quick, but I was in a small team and always when you have the chance to go to a top team to fight for better positions is always the target.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Michael, it's interesting to look at the times between the sessions. Your time was remarkably better in the last session with a race fuel load. Can you explain why? Is it the tyres, is it that you didn't risk so much in the first sessions?
Schumacher: First session, you don't risk everything. Secondly, I only did one lap due to the red flag. Thirdly, it was much dirtier on the track. Fourthly, we had used tyres.
Q: (Pascal Dro - Formules) Felipe, you're still a young driver. Do you feel something special going into the track as your first qualifying for Ferrari?
Massa: Yes, sure. Always when you go on the track you always have the feeling that you need to do your best and get the best out of you and I have to say I was not excited - I was just concentrating on doing my lap and that's what I did. You have always some emotions, but you have more when you are out of the car. When you are in the car, you have only the felling to do your best.
Q: You look exhausted. Are you?
Massa: No, now the emotion is coming so I need to prepare myself for these things after qualifying. I'm not tired, I'm just happy.
Q: (Alessia Cruciani - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Michel, Kimi Raikkonen only wants to sign a contract with Ferrari. What do you think of that?
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) In you're running, you've come up against two cars running different engines to the rest of you. What are your opinions on the performance of those two cars?
Button: Well, they're supposed to have more horsepower and that's about it really. I haven't been behind a Toro Rosso this weekend so I don't know how quick they are in the straights, but they're supposed to be more powerful than any of the V8 cars.
Schumacher: I wouldn't be surprised if they have more horsepower, but they're not that far off. They have a reasonable car from last year and nevertheless if you look at where the first team is and the second team. It's maybe hard for teams like Midland and Aguri to run with the V8 and they don't know exactly. You always assume there is more than you think, but I think if you give them a V8 they could do the same.
Massa: If I have to think about it as a Ferrari driver, you see the rules is that everyone has the V8 and you see another team with a V10, which is maybe not 100 percent fair because nobody is right and 100 percent reliable. They are 100 percent reliable because they have the car from last year. If I was a Midland driver, I would be angry because you work a lot through the winter and then see another car running with a V10.
Q: How do you rate this circuit and how did you find the hospitality?
Button: This is a circuit I enjoy. It's had some great racing over the last few years, and also for me, it's a great place to start the season. The hospitality is fantastic, we've been welcomed here with open arms and put on a great show, so yes, I'm really happy with the way things have gone this weekend and I'm sure everyone is looking forward to the race tomorrow.
Schumacher: Very similar. It has been even more obvious for all three of us because we have been here for a whole week of testing. You have more time to get out and meet people and I found the people very nice and very helpful and I've really enjoyed the time.
Massa: The same. I really enjoy the circuit. It's very well done, the paddock and everything. Also the place. I was here nine days testing and I really enjoyed it. The time goes by quickly because it's a really nice place to be.
Q: The grid off-line is quite dirty compared to other circuits so how will that affect your starts?
Button: I'm on clean side so I'm okay.
Schumacher: Me too.
Massa: Me too. I did not hear the question so maybe me too. Oh yeah, I'm on the dirty side, so maybe it's not good, but hopefully we can have a good start and maybe keep the position.
Q: (Mark Fogarty - Auto Action) Felipe will you and Michael be on different strategies or can we expect a straight fight?
Massa: I think wait tomorrow and you'll see.
Button: I'm just wondering how you'll get information out of him, sitting up here. It would be quite impressive.
Q: Is the team encouraging you to battle Michael hard?
Massa: The team is encouraging both drivers to push very hard and be in the best position possible. We are starting first and second but I think our competitors are very strong. We will not have an easy race so both drivers will have to push hard from beginning to last lap.
Q: (Niki Takeda - Formula PA) How enjoyable was qualifying, trying to find the best lap in traffic?
Button: It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it. It was weird seeing other cars on the track, but getting out on the track when it's dirty is an experience. I know how the Minardi guys felt last year. I think it will work with the fans and with us.
Schumacher: I enjoyed it.
Massa: I enjoyed it much, but not the traffic. I think it is a good system and I hope the people at home enjoyed it. It was interesting.
Q: (Sonorita Chauhan - Gulf Weekly) Jenson, you said you like flowing tracks, but this is stop-start. Do you like it here? Also, as a new home-owner, does it change things? Will we be seeing more of you?
Button: Hopefully. It's not built yet but hopefully I'll be coming out. It's a great way to relax and it's not too far from Europe as well. The track, well, we've had some good races here and for me that makes it a good racetrack. We're able to overtake and race against each other.