FRENCH GP - SUNDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
SUNDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - POST RACE - 16 JULY 2006
1. Michael SCHUMACHER (Ferrari), 1h32m07.803s
2. Fernando ALONSO (Renault), 1h32m17.934s
3. Felipe MASSA (Ferrari), 1h32m30.349s
Q: What a day - it looked like a perfect day for you?
Schumacher: Yes, we had a good start and we drove our race from there. We were not sure how the race would go because we didn't do any long runs because of some problems we had on Saturday morning so it was a bit of a guess where, and how, the race would go, but I have to say that the car, the tyres, the whole package really worked superbly and it is a great result. I am sorry for Felipe that he couldn't keep his second, but nevertheless back on the podium and important points we got from that.
Q: You were stunningly quick after the second pit-stop and that was the decisive moment of the race.
Schumacher: Yeah, we obviously chose to use the tyres in a certain way and that was the period when we chose to put new tyres on the car and they gave us some extra performance plus the circuit got in better shape at that stage and things just seemed to come together.
Q: And it must have been great to see Felipe in your mirrors during the opening laps?
Schumacher: As I said we made a great start and being first and second is the ideal situation at the start of a race and it is a good result at the end of the day and we can be quite happy about it.
Q: Fernando, very close with Felipe going into the first corner?
Alonso: Yes, it was close, but I was nearly in the grass at one point so I had to back off and after I tried to overtake but obviously it's very difficult on this track so we would have to wait for the stops. We hoped at that stage of the race to have perfect consistency in the tyres so we knew that we should be in front of Felipe and at the end everything was working as planned.
Q: How much did that first stint limit your performance over the race distance, the time you may have lost?
Alonso: Not much. I think in the whole first stint, maybe four or five seconds, no more than that, so for sure it was not enough to win the race and it didn't change too much at the end.
Q: How was the car towards the end of the race?
Alonso: It was OK. Obviously we put in a lot of fuel at the stops to go quite long and at the end of the run, the tyres were not in perfect condition because I used them quite a lot at the beginning of the stints with a heavy car, but they were still working really nicely. We were two or three tenths down compared to Michael if we were to win the race, coming from the whole package, all weekend, not only today but to be second on a difficult weekend for us is a perfect result and it's good to finish second with the position we have in the championship.
Q: Felipe, it looked like a great team performance today. You protected that second place in the early stages.
Felipe MASSA: Yes, I went into the first corner alongside Fernando. I was a little bit in front and inside so I knew he had more to do than me so in the end it was a fair start. Anyway, I think the team did a good job, the car was very good and unfortunately, I couldn't keep the position but I'm still happy to bring points home, especially for the team's championship but my championship as well. I'm just getting closer to Giancarlo and Kimi so I think it was a great weekend for us and hopefully we can maintain this pace.
Q: Michael, seven races to go, the championship still very much to play for and a great performance from Ferrari and Bridgestone following on from Indianapolis.
Schumacher: Yeah, absolutely. That's what we have to look at and hope for from the coming races, to keep the momentum going. Obviously it's going to be a battle in development in all areas but it's a great result if you see, particularly this weekend, how difficult at certain moments it has been, with the problem we had yesterday. At one moment we weren't certain whether we could do qualifying or not, but the mechanics really did a superb job and I'm really thankful to all of these guys, they are really special guys. The engineers put the car together very well. We made up our set-up out of guesswork and all the team, in that respect, my engineers, my group, have worked very well together and I'm really pleased about that.
Q: Michael, a remarkable eighth win here, what is it that's so special about here that allows you to win eight times?
Schumacher: Great guys behind me. If you think about the problem I had on Saturday, to get the car together to do the qualifying, to get pole position, to guess the set-up from there on, to get the tyres sorted, they did a really great job.
Q: Were you a little bit surprised that Renault did two stops, particularly when they stopped at virtually the same time as you first time around?
Schumacher: Yeah, they stopped one lap earlier. I think they had both options and there was a reason why they chose that option, but I'm not well enough informed with the information and what was going on to judge that.
Q: These last two races have certainly put your championship back on track again; what are your feelings about it?
Schumacher: Yup. Keep going like that. If you look at this race... to me Indianapolis was not really the reference in a way. We were too dominant. Looking at this race, yes, it is a reference point. We have clearly made up ground and we have to keep on working at that pace and for sure everybody will just keep pushing for the last seven races. It's far from being over.
Q: And Hockenheim is the next one, which you can count as one of your home Grands Prix.
Schumacher: It doesn't really matter if it is a home Grand Prix. What matters is how much your car and package match the circuit and we obviously feel confident that that can be the case, but then we want to prove it.
Q: Fernando, can you tell us a bit about that strategy; the first stint was quite short, the second stint was longer, the third stint was longer again.
Alonso: Yeah. I think we had two options, two possibilities, but after starting behind the two Ferraris, we guessed, at that point that they were on three stops and it's difficult to overtake on this track or nearly impossible so if we were going to stay on the same strategy we would finish behind them, but if we did a different strategy, we had the possibility of finishing in front of them or behind them anyway.
Q: What do you think of this resurgence of Ferrari, a bit surprised by it?
Alonso: No, no, not at all. I think Indianapolis was a strange race, as Michael said, from the tyres and the difficulties we had last year. Maybe we were too conservative or whatever. I think here we were close, but not quick enough. Same as Nurburgring and Imola but at that point Ferrari seemed to have more development than anybody else and everybody thought that they would win all the races and then we won four consecutive races and hopefully this will happen again from the next race on.
Q: When did you have new tyres in this race?
Alonso: At the start and at the first stop. After that they were used tyres.
Q: Difficult on used tyres?
Alonso: No. To be honest there wasn't a big difference. They were a bit more difficult because they were longer stints, so a little more difficult but not a big difference between new and old tyres.
Q: Felipe, you were pushed hard by Fernando in the early stages -- how hard was it?
Massa: Yes, it was quite hard, especially at the start, he got alongside at the first corner and it was quite tight, but I could manage to stay in position and then he was pushing a little bit, especially in the first five laps and then I could manage to improve my pace and to find a gap between us and it was comfortable to the first stop. Then we decided to stay on three stops and Fernando went to two stops and he managed to pass him in the strategy, which was, Well, I would like to have stayed in that position, but anyway I think it was a good result and just important for the championship.
Q: How was the car today?
Massa: It was good. It was a good car. Everything worked good. The tyres - we were a bit afraid (about) for the race, because of consistency, but we had the consistency but I think the tyres worked better than we expected especially as yesterday night it was not raining like it was on Friday night and I think the track picked up a little more rubber and it helped us for sure in terms of consistency.
Q: So encouraging for the rest of the season from Bridgestone?
Massa: Yeah. Definitely. In terms of the tyres and the car. We are working hard to improve the car and pretty much you can make a stab in terms of aerodynamics.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Matthias Brunner - Motorsport Aktuell) Fernando, do you think a different tyre choice would have changed anything for the race?
Alonso: No, I don't think so. I think the two tyres we had here they worked really well as we expected and tested last week in Jerez and nothing was a surprise for us and probably the Bridgestone tyre did a really good job as well and they worked really well because we had two Ferraris and two Toyotas in the top five so it was not a perfect weekend for us. But with a difficult weekend we have eight points and we have second place so it is fantastic news.
Q: (Thierry Vautrat - Sud Ouest) To Fernando, I would like to know, when you were in front of Michael on his second stint, did you think that would be enough for you to keep him behind you?
Alonso: No because I knew I had to stop three laps later and take fuel to the end and it was a really heavy car and we both had to do one stop after those laps and he was quicker than me for sure in those laps.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland ) Could you clarify - did you have two strategies as options before the race? Or did you change during the race?
Alonso: No we have always two options and here especially because it is wide open between two and three stops and the first stop was similar in both cases around 17, 18 and 19 and from there we decide and because we start behind the Ferraris I think it was quite clear and our tyres seemed to be a little more constant in the long runs and so we chose the two stops.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Michael could you tell us when you use the new set and, Felipe, if I understood, you had also the option to do two stops?
Schumacher: Last stop and second-last stop.
Massa: We had, like Fernando said, both teams have the two options and we thought that looking at the traffic that if the traffic was not a problem three stops was a little bit better, but for me it wasn't really the case. I took a lot of traffic and I lost very important seconds behind the traffic and the strategy on three stops was a little bit tight for me but we just know after the race.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado de Sao Paulo) Question for Michael. In lap number 18, did you realise that you really could win the race because you didn't have reference before about tyre performance in long runs?
Schumacher: At that moment, I think I had already eight seconds or something like that in front of Fernando, if I am correct - and I am not sure, the main point was in the first laps was how the tyres would go because we had had some difficulties, but the track came through with us and it was ok. We had consistent lap times from there on and I was pretty optimistic.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Felipe, yesterday you said you would try to do everything to help Ferrari in the world championship and the race proved that you couldn't do it today. How unhappy are you about that and secondly do you think there was a chance to finish second in this race?
Massa: I think that to finish third helped the team so Michael make two points in front of Fernando and I made few points in front of Giancarlo and that is helping the team I guess. That's important and for sure I was trying to keep my position and it was not possible today. I had a lot of traffic and I lost time and Fernando was very consistent on his tyres especially on two stops and on his second stint and he could make a little gap to stay in the front. I don't agree with you that I am not helping the team. I think we have taken away some points and it is a big help for the championship.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) But I mean mathematically if you calculate it is not enough if Michael is always first and Fernando is second.
Massa: But we still have seven races and the mathematics is important at the end of the championships, not now. Everything is important, race by race, but we still have seven races and we try to do our best to be at the front of the championship at the end. I pushed as hard as I could to stay in second position but it was not possible, but it was important for me and for the team.
Q: (Carlos Miquel Gomez - Diario As) Fernando, was Massa correct in the first corner?
Alonso: Yes, I think so. We always try to keep our positions and always the start here at Magny-Cours is very difficult because the first corner is really quick and on the left, flat-out and then a very quick corner on the right and I think it was quite normal what happened there. Massa had nothing to lose, his Ferrari drivers had to back off for sure.
Q: (Philippe Joubin - L'Equipe) A question for Fernando - yesterday after qualifying you seemed very confident. Why were you so confident to fight for victory?
Alonso: Well, we were confident because we did our maximum in qualifying and there were no mistakes and nothing went wrong and if we finished third we believed it was because for one lap performance our tyres were not quick enough and maybe this paid out in the race with a more consistent tyre and it was what we thought yesterday and I still think our tyres were a little bit more constant than the Ferraris but they were probably not quick enough to beat them.
Q: (Serhan Acar - CNN Turkey) A question for Michael - now you have 160 podiums and 88 wins if I am right. How far do you think you can go? Is 100 wins possible for you?
Schumacher: Find out.