Post Race Press Conference


Post Race Press Conference

1. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1:31m 39.776s; 2. Mika HAKKINEN (McLAREN-MERCEDES), 1.168 seconds behind;
3. David COULTHARD (McLAREN-MERCEDES), 51.008 seconds behind.

Q. Congratulations, Michael, on your third win in this year's three races. It was a great win but not perhaps the most impressive of starts. Talk us through what happened as the lights went out.

Michael Schumacher: Yes, it was exciting, and also one of the worst, probably similar to Suzuka last year. I still have to find out myself exactly what happened, but I went straight into wheelspin which was so massive that it almost ruined my start. I was lucky nobody except Mika went through, so I could continue and drive my race.

Q. You won the race in the four laps at the end of your second stint that you stayed out longer than Mika. Was that always the plan, or was it a change of strategy?

MS: That is what the strategy was, but because we didn't know what Mika was going to do, we had to guess. It was the only [choice] we had, honestly, and it was lucky for us that the gap [between us] went down just before the end of his second stint. I don't know what the problem was that he had, but suddenly the gap shrank down quite a lot. At the same moment, when it was coming down, I was behind Diniz and I almost hit him. He tried to let me pass in an area where it was very difficult for me to assume that he would choose to slow down, and I lost the same two seconds there that I had just picked up.
Nevertheless, the strategy was just right. Those four laps were crucial - and we did it, for the tifosi. Yesterday I apologised [to them for my mistake in qualifying]. I said I would try to put things straight in the race, and I did, so I hope everybody is happy with this. From what I can see outside, it seems that everybody is happy. So am I. Now we can look forward to the next one.

Q. Mika, how disappointing is it to lose a race, entirely on strategy, after leading it without any apparent effort?

Mika Hakkinen: Naturally it's disappointing. But I had two situations in the race which cost me a lot of time. After the first stop when I started running [again] I hit something on the track which completely destroyed the front of the floor. I don't know what it was, a piece of metal or something, and I lost the aerodynamics. It made the car very difficult to drive after that. The second thing happened just before my second stop, when the car just stopped at the end of the main straight. The car didn't want to continue and the engine stopped running. I don't know how much time I lost there - at least three or four seconds - and that was enough [to lose the race]. For this reason I can say that I am extremely disappointed about the work I have been able to do this weekend, and for the work the mechanics did. Until then, everybody had done the right thing.

Q. Last year your team mate David Coulthard had a lot of difficulty getting through the traffic. This year, with the new blue light system in the cars, was it any improvement?

MH: No, not really. I didn't find it very good. But it's difficult to complain in one sense. There are so many things you can say, but at the end of the day it doesn't do any good. It's not going to change anything, and it won't change the result. But to answer your question, it was definitely a problem to overtake the backmarkers today. Some drivers were very good. Other drivers were ... less good.

Q. David, unlike your team mate you actually gained a race position in your pit stop. Please talk us through it.

David Coulthard: First of all, I found myself in that situation [4th, behind Barrichello]'s Ferrari, because it was very close trying to pass Michael at the first corner and I had to back off to avoid touching him. As we went round the corner, that allowed Rubens to get past me. I spent the rest of the race, until the second pit stop, stuck behind Rubens. My first stop was quite early - so he gained some track time on me there - and I also had a problem selecting first gear in the pits, which exaggerated the advantage he had in the first stop. I knew I was quicker than him, though, so I was able to catch up with him and it was just a question of staying close and hoping that I would be called in a lap or two later than he was planning to do. In the end, we both stopped on the same lap. Thanks to my guys, who did a great job, I got back into the race in front of him. I think I pulled out 20 seconds on him in the last stint ...

Q. At that stage you were lapping a full two seconds than him. How much faster than another car does your own car have to be to give you a reasonable chance of overtaking here?

DC: It is very difficult on this track. It's unlike the situation we saw in Brazil, where there was some overtaking by the Ferrari drivers and us. But there we were on a heavy fuel load while they were running light fuel. The straights at Interlagos are longer, too, and here - where we were all running the same strategy - the straights aren't long enough to get the sort of advantage you need [to go past safely]. In fact it's so difficult here that you probably need to be five seconds faster than the other driver to be able to get past.

Q. Michael, after last year's accident at Silverstone, is it difficult to be facing the next race at that circuit? Do you have mixed feelings about it?

MS: Right now, no. It is something [in the past and] I know why it happened. I will be looking very carefully at the run-off area in the section of the circuit where it happened, because it wasn't up to [standard last year]. We know why the accident happened, and I have already said several times that it could have happened anywhere at any time. But other than looking at the run-off areas, to make sure everything is good down there, I'm going to England with normal feelings. We have a test there next week and I am assuming that I won't have any strange feelings.

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