Q & A with Jean Todt
|By Jonathan Noble||Monday, October 23rd 2006, 01:02 GMT|
Jean Todt: "In a way it's a good thing that the championship is over. A certain disappointment we have, because winning nine Grands Prix out of 18 - seven for Michael, two for Felipe - we would have preferred to bring home the championships, or at least one.
"It did not happen, we were facing a very strong competitor, and they managed simply to score more points than we did.
"Saying that, I think Ferrari have been very strong this year, probably the biggest rewards I can see is the quality of the team, the quality of the people, the atmosphere we have in the team.
"We have great drivers, great engineers, great mechanics, great partners and it's a chapter which is ending with the decision Michael has taken to retire from Formula One racing. I definitely feel sad about that, even if I share his decision and if I understand his decision.
"Michael probably would have rather preferred to finish on a different result this year, but I would say that he has demonstrated again what kind of fighter he is.
"We were far behind at a certain period of the championship and we came back two races before the end of the championship, and we were not reliable enough in the two last races, and it has been paid at a high cost, which is fair.
"So no complaint, and now we have to close the chapter and open another one, and that's part of the Ferrari history."
Q: How confident are you that you can start a new chapter next season and carry on from where you left off this season with another nine wins?
Todt: "I would say... you know, first, we are on the 22nd October, so we have about five months before we will start another championship, so we will do our best to start better than we did this year, because we know how important it can be to score points at the beginning of the championship.
"It will definitely be different, it will never be the same without Michael, particularly for the people who have been working, like me, so many years.
"We have been building, creating such a fantastic collaborationship, even if Michael will remain in the family, which will be a big asset for all the company, for all the team, but it will definitely be different.
"We will try our best, as we have always been doing, sometimes with great success, sometimes without success."
Q: With Michael being such a great part of Ferrari, how confident are you that the team can pick themselves up from this year and go on without him?
Todt: "Time will tell. Again, I must say that whatever the nationalities, the questions are always the same. It was the same with the Italian journalists. Let's digest for a few hours the '06 championship and then we will talk about the '07 championship.
"We have said that a few changes will be announced for next year after the race, in the next days following the race, so we will do that.
"A few changes will be announced and we will stick to what we have said, but it's a bit too early to start to speak about the Australian race in '07."
Q: How fitting was it that Michael went out with such a fabulous drive?
Todt: "Michael is a fabulous driver. He won, I think, 91 Grands Prix, seven championships, it's simply unique, so don't ask me if I was surprised about his drive today.
"I wonder if some people were surprised. If they were, they are far away from this business. I must say that so many people are living in this business but are far away from this business.
"But I was simply disappointed that Michael has had to fight since yesterday, since yesterday with a fuel pump, then, after the overtaking with Fisichella, he had a puncture and he has to start...
"He was almost lapped by Felipe, who slowed down a bit to lap Michael and to let Michael come back. So Michael is unique and he has demonstrated that again today."
Q: What did you say on the radio afterwards, were you speaking to him?
Todt: "We gave him the difference to the other drivers on the track."
Q: There were two phases in the race at Turn 9, when Michael lost time, once when he was ahead of Kubica and once when he was behind Fisichella. I understand that you told him to change something on the steering wheel?
Todt: "He went a bit wide, and he lost time twice, but he was giving so much of himself, he was doing over 100 percent of what he could drive, so probably sometimes he over-drove."
Q: Do you know from the telemetry whether Michael touched Fisichella when he first overtook him? And if yes, did that have an effect for the puncture?
Todt: "It's definitely in the overtaking manoeuvre that he got the puncture. We have to see in slow motion. It's definitely a racing incident, but let's say that the overtaking manoeuvre wasn't very much helped, which I can understand. It wasn't very well supported, and probably it did not help Michael in his overtaking."
Q: Is it fair to describe Michael as the greatest driver in Formula One history?
Todt: "I don't have any element to be able to say that. My opinion, as I said to you, how could I allow myself to say whether he's better than Fangio or Clark or... he definitely is among the best drivers in the history of motor racing, but nobody can say... to compare things, you must compare at the same time. Definitely, his period is over.
"I would say with all the respect, the credit and the admiration I have for Michael, Formula One fortunately, and we never speak enough about that, has become so much safer compared to what it was 15, 20, 30, 40 years ago, and it is a great tribute to those who have allowed that, and to the past Formula One drivers."
Q: Is there any news on the Toro Rosso engine situation?
Todt: "We are talking, soon we will inform about eventual changes. Soon."