ITALIAN GP - SATURDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
SATURDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - POST QUALIFYING - 9 SEPTEMBER 2006
1. Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLaren Mercedes), 1m21.484s
2. Michael SCHUMACHER (Ferrari), 1m21.486s
3. Nick HEIDFELD (BMW), 1m21.653s
Q: Kimi, your third pole this year, very close, on pole by two-thousandths of a second from Michael....
Kimi RAIKKONEN: Yeah, it was very close. The car has been pretty good all weekend. It wasn't a clean lap. I had quite a big moment twice in Ascari, but it was quick enough for pole and I think we have a good race car also.
Q: Just talk us through the build-up to here. How was the car in testing, how are the Michelins and how do you feel the level of competition will be tomorrow?
Raikkonen: I think it's going to be down to the tyres -- which tyre will last better and be strong in the race. But I think we had a very bad test. I wasn't testing, but they had some difficulties. The circuit was resurfaced and we couldn't find the grip, but now suddenly the car is much better and it's back like it usually is here. So far it has been a good weekend for us.
Q: Michael, it's very close and it won't have escaped your notice that Fernando Alonso has qualified fifth today and you're on the front row for Ferrari. Your thoughts and how's the car?
Michael SCHUMACHER: The car is going very well. We were already quite strong at the test, quite consistent, so it's a comfortable position to be in. Obviously, with a margin of two thousandths of a second it's a tight battle and would have been nice to have been on pole here at our home Grand Prix, but more important to try and achieve (the win) tomorrow.
Q: How was the qualifying lap, your pole lap?
Schumacher: It was clean. It was OK.
Q: Your thoughts going into the race with Kimi alongside you and Fernando behind you?
Schumacher: Yeah, it's better than having him beside, or in front, of me, so it's a more ideal situation. I'm obviously happy for Nick to be up on the podium here today as well - another German fellow - and good as well for the position to start the race, so a lot of promising moments we have in front of us.
Q: Nick, first time in the top three since Nurburgring last year and continuing momentum for the BMW Sauber team...
Nick HEIDFELD: Yeah, pretty unexpected. The test didn't go too badly, but as usually in testing it's very difficult to really know where you stand. This weekend has gone quite well for us and I have to say I think that was the best qualifying lap I've done this year and it's great to be in the top three.
Q: The car looks to be quick everywhere in terms of top speed, exit speed and of course corner speed.
Heidfeld: Yeah, if you look at the sector times I think I lose a bit in the second sector, that's where you need down-force, but I opted for quite low down-force so our top speeds are good and I think it suits our car.
Q: In the past, the team has been very quick in that final session building up to qualifying but today you've managed to continue right through into qualifying.
Heidfeld: Yeah, I think we're seeing a change of trend there for the last couple of races but actually I also find it hard to explain why that is. All year we have been very strong in the morning but we haven't managed to carry that over to qualifying. But since a couple of races we managed to be quick as well (in qualifying), still not as quick as in the morning, but it's a step in the right direction.
Q: Kimi, as Peter said, you were on pole last year but you were penalised and your team-mate went on to win the race from pole, so how do you feel about it tomorrow?
Raikkonen: I think last year we had a slightly stronger car, but it has been going well this weekend and the car has been pretty good, so of course we do the best we can to keep first place, but it will not be easy, but we will do all we can and hopefully we can manage to do it.
Q: How easy was it to make the tyre choice? I understand Michelin have got something like ten different types of tyre here?
Raikkonen: I wasn't here in the test and Pedro was here and the test drivers, but they chose a very good tyre and then of course we have two choices and it was pretty easy for us to choose from those two and it has been working very well. I think it is going to be a good tyre in the race and so we just need to wait and see.
Q: So you are fairly confident for tomorrow?
Raikkonen: Yes, but it could go either way tomorrow. I am confident. Yes.
Q: Michael, Kimi mentioned he made some mistakes and there are only two-thousandths in it at the end of qualifying, could you have gone quicker?
Schumacher: Not really. No. But it is academic. What does it change?
Q: From the championship position, are you happy with second on the grid?
Schumacher: Yes, if you look at the order where in particular Fernando is then it is not too bad for us.
Q: And with your team-mate ahead of him, too?
Q: So you are feeling pretty confident, too?
Q: Has the talk of the announcement tomorrow been a distraction for you or have you managed to shut all that off?
Schumacher: It's absolutely not a story. It's very clear. It has been very clearly communicated. So if it is at all a distraction it is to other people rather than to us.
Q: Nick, well done. What has made the difference really for you because you have been quick all weekend?
Heidfeld: Well, actually I am a bit surprised to be in the top three after the test. We didn't expect that. To be sure, I have quite a well-balanced car, the best I had for a while and even better than in test and I think we have made a good tyre choice. As Kimi said, at the test, it was not really perfect but Michelin worked really hard. There were a lot of different compounds and constructions and I think that has helped us quite a lot.
Q: And that choice was not difficult to make?
Heidfeld: No, it was quite easy because both tyres that we have are quite good, but I think I made the right choice.
Q: And for the race?
Heidfeld: Well, starting third of course you could argue that you want to finish third and of course that is my target. But I think it is going to be difficult and in the long run we will not look as strong as we do now after qualifying, but more importantly we can really see a good trend over the last couple of races we have really improved heavily with the podium and then in the last race I was a bit unlucky. I had a really good qualifying, but then obviously I had that crash in the first corner, but as we are a new team, BMW Sauber, I am very happy.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Matthias Brunner - Motor Sport Aktuell) For Kimi and Michael, did the rain last night affect the track and your tyre choice?
Raikkonen: Was it raining? I did not notice. I was in the hotel all evening so I had no idea. I didn't know it had rained so it didn't affect me at all.
Schumacher: Yes, it was obviously a bit more slippery this morning, so the rubber (that was) put down was taken away by the rain, but it went back up quickly and as to the tyre choice I think he is on Michelins and I am on Bridgestones....
Q: Your tyre choice..
Schumacher: Oh, did it affect? Ah, sorry... No.
Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Deutschland) Michael, at this stage of the championship any small thing can make the difference. Fernando lost some parts of his car after he had that puncture. Were you informed and what were your thoughts?
Schumacher: I was informed, but that was it and I concentrated on myself.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) To all drivers, there have been suggestions about the safety standards of this circuit. What are your comments?
Schumacher: We are not very happy on one particular point, which is the second chicane which we as drivers have felt for many years has not been up to the standards. There is a solution as we have been doing many years ago with the first chicane, which had the same problem. For whatever reason, other things get changed, but the main and worst particular item does not get changed. And yesterday at the GPDA meeting it was quite a discussion about it and we all felt very unhappy about it.
Raikkonen: That was a good answer I think and I don't want to get involved in that situation so it is not going to change by talking about what we decided in here.
Heidfeld: Nothing to add.
Q: (Matthias Brunner - Motor Sport Aktuell) Michael, very often start position three is preferable to P2. How is that usually at Monza?
Schumacher: It's true, but I don't know. I don't know. I don't have the past in my mind at the moment.