Q & A with Schumacher, Yasukawa

Transcript of the press conference with Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and Bridgestone's Hiroshi Yasukawa. Provided by Bridgestone's press office

Q & A with Schumacher, Yasukawa

Michael Schumacher: If I listen to the support, we should do it; there shouldn't be any question about that! But as you have seen lately, we're sort of struggling a little bit, and we haven't been all the way competitive so far. But as usual we will try our best. Bridgestone is highly motivated, and ourselves, we're pushing to get the car going, get the car back to the competitiveness we had in the past and last year in particular. The competition is tough. Those other guys, the other teams are doing a great job, and it's difficult to beat them at the moment.

Q. Of course, the rules this year require that the engines last for two races and you use one set of Bridgestone tires for the complete event. Has that changed the way you approach the race, have you changed your driving style to accommodate the new tire rules this year?

MS: It has certainly changed, big time. All winter long we had to no longer work for just a 20 lap stint, but we had to work for the whole 300kms race distance, and even more (because) we have to do qualifying. At the winter time, there were two qualifying sessions, now there is only one. So there was quite a big demand for testing and development because we didn't really want to take away any performance; we wanted to keep the performance. And on the other side, keep the tires as durable as they have to be. It was a pretty tough task. I think we've improved massively since the beginning of the season. It's an area where Bridgestone is working very hard with a lot of progress every time, and there's a lot to come.

Q. Mr Yasukawa, with the new tire regulation this year, how has that changed Bridgestone's product, now they have to make it last all the way through qualifying and the race?

Hiroshi Yasukawa: This new regulation has a very strong impact for us because last year when you were watching the races you saw tire changes - maybe once, or twice, or three times. But this year we cannot see tire changes, which means that we have to produce, as Michael explained, around 380kms - or 250 miles. Then our technical people are concerned about safety; safety is very important. Of course we have concerns about speed and new compounds, constructions, new shape, but our mission is safe tires. But anyway, it's a new challenge for us.

Q. Michael, the five most recent of your World Championships have come on Bridgestone tires. Right now you're going through your longest winless drought since your early days in F1 with Benetton. How do you react to those challenges of getting Ferrari back on top? How are things different from when you were on top for all those years?

MS: Well, I mean it's quite obvious what is the difference; we started most of the races quite a bit further back, except the Canadian GP, where we were on a different strategy than most other people. It's just a different challenge. I have to say as long as we are as competitive as we are, and we have shown in several races like in Imola, like in Monte Carlo, where we did the fastest lap, we have the speed. We are there in terms of speed, we just don't get it there all the time, and in particular in qualifying, because we struggle to get the car at the right spot of the grid and to then have a good race. Most of the time we have to compromise the race a little bit for that one lap issue in qualifying. Which then brings us into this circle which is difficult to get out of. Anyway, the most important thing is to know that it's F1; it's a very high level of competition, you have great drivers, you have great teams. Everybody has the same target; everybody wants to win. And we ! have been winning for the last five or six years, and at some stage you have to accept that maybe somebody else can do a better job. It's our motivation and challenge to again show that we can come back. I'm so confident of that; I have no doubt about that. It just may take a little longer.

Q. Mr. Yasukawa, it's been reported that Bridgestone would welcome some additional teams on its tires in addition to Minardi, Jordan and Ferrari. Your thoughts on having more customer teams?

HY: Now we support three teams, but I'm very happy working with Ferrari, and Ferrari's cooperation is huge, especially test-wise and racing, as well. And anyhow Michael helps us a lot, and we have a very long relationship and we have very good communications. But if you look at F1, 10 teams are running, and now we support just three. If we're concerned about this imbalance, then maybe we can have one or two more teams, this is true.

Q. Michael, you've won three of the five races held here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We have a new racing surface on the track this year. Bridgestone has a great record of success. What do you look forward to in the race, given all the variables at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

MS: There's only one target for us, we definitely want to win, there's no doubt about that. We have made again certain improvements to the car, to the tires, and as you said there's a new tarmac. We have to see how that sort of moves the situation, whether it's going to bring the ball into our hand, or it gives it away a little bit further. It's such a fine line; it can tip over one or the other way very easily.

Q. Some people have complained that the season is too long. Ron Dennis has said that he wants to go back to 16 races. How do you feel about that, do you really think it's too long? And would you like to race in Mexico, as they are building a new track in Cancun?

MS: If Ron doesn't want to race 19 races, he is more than welcome not to! Honestly our season is anyway as long as it would be with 16 or 19 races, or 20 races. We start at the beginning of January, and it goes all the way until mid-December. So whether we do a lot of racing, or a lot of testing, what is easier to prefer? I prefer to race than to test, that is very clear. I have been in Mexico in the early 90s. I have been down there with sports cars and F1. And we had a great time there. The circuit was a big challenge, and I'm pretty sure we have a lot of support down in Mexico, as we always have. So I think we all would be quite happy to return.

Q. Michael, your brother, Ralf, has been giving interviews in Germany suggesting that you may be thinking of retiring at the end of this season. We know that's not a new issue, but can you just confirm what your plans are?

MS: Keep on racing! Honestly, as long as I am competitive, and you're happy to see me, I'll keep on.

Q. There have been rumors in the press that you might try to go for 10 World Championships, that you might not retire at the end of 2006 when your contract runs out. What's the situation there?

MS: One thing you have to know, rumors, that's what the press lives from. There is no such target for me. I want to enjoy it as long as I can enjoy it. I only enjoy it when I'm competitive. I feel competitive still, and as long as this is the case, I will keep on, and whatever comes, it will come. Honestly, the main target has arrived in 2000. When the first Championship has been achieved together with Ferrari, that was the main thing. It was so exciting for all of us to achieve this goal. Ever since, everything that arrived after that, it was just a present. It's great, but I'm not targeting anything in particular, except running, enjoying, and getting such support as I'm getting here today.

Q. In the future do you see yourself keeping in the racing scene, maybe having a team, maybe being a team director like Niki Lauda, doing something like that, or are you going to go home and just come to the Monaco GP every year or something?

MS: One thing is for sure - the only team director you should talk about is Jean Todt. He is working really an incredible amount. He never lacks motivation, and he is the big pusher in the background at all times. Especially in these days he's giving more than 100 percent when you sometimes think it's not possible. Honestly, I have a very good life as a race driver. I wouldn't want to swap with him any time!

Q. Michael, do you have any pets?

MS: We have dogs. They don't go very well with cats, our dogs at least. They are like a German Shepherd dog but a different breed, but in that direction. There are three of them, so no space for cats.

Q. Your wife, Corinna, enjoys horses, I believe?

MS: Yes, she enjoys Western horses; that's her big passion. Just before we came to the Canadian GP, there was a two-week break roughly after Nurburgring to Canada, we've been in Montana at a ranch. We enjoyed very much the nature, riding horses, and just being around with the kids and her. I do really appreciate very much her main interest with horses. I love the horses, too, the kids they love horses, so after racing that's quite an important subject that we're spending time with.

Q. What athlete among all sports around the world do you most admire?

MS: I am a soccer fan, but soccer is one thing. Honestly, if you see what the cyclists are doing, and in particular if you see what Lance (Armstrong) is doing, that's very, very outstanding for me. I do quite a lot of physical preparation, and I sort of think I know what it takes, what they are doing, and it's unbelievable what effort, what motivation, what dedication they have to have to do that.

Q. How do you feel about the newest qualifying format, and would you like qualifying to go back to the old format where everyone is on the track at once?

MS: Well, I have to say I did enjoy that in the past, yes. No doubt. It was a sort of thrill in the end of the last five minutes of the session to get out and wonder whether you'd get in that lap or not. The way the rules are, it is simply the only choice how we could deal with the situation. On the other side, I've experienced that with all the changes that we've been doing in the last years, you never keep everybody happy. Somebody will always find a reason to complain. To me, we should have stuck where we were and maybe accepted that some people were not happy because some people now are not happy.

Q. What's the most athletically challenging course on the F1 circuit?

MS: Malaysia is very, very tough for us, and Monte Carlo in a way. It's a different challenge. Malaysia is very hot, very humid, a lot of G force. Our neck and body gets really thrown around big time with all this heat. And then Monte Carlo is very demanding on the physical side, and the concentration side. So those two circuits, they are quite tough for us.

Q. It appears that the car and tires weren't working well together earlier in the year, but after a two-three finish in Montreal, do you feel like the tire program is back on track? And do you feel that you can realistically challenge for the Championship this year?

MS: Put it this way. As I keep saying, as long as mathematically we are in the position of fighting for the Championship, we will keep on fighting, no doubt about that.

Q. You mentioned that you and your family come here to the United States. What is it about America that appeals to you as a place to visit and vacation?

MS: First of all you have great spots country-wise. We just came from a tour with the bikes from Asheville (N.C.) up to Indianapolis, and we stayed in this Blue Ridge Parkway area. We spent about one and half days there. Then we went to Dealer's Point, we did this run. And that was just awesome. You have so many beautiful places to experience, and having the chance to come here to race, I obviously want to take the opportunity and see the country.

Q. What is it about motorcycling that appeals so much? You were here on a bike last year, as well.

MS: I love biking, particularly because you just feel so free. You get the air, you feel like you're in the open sky. It's like diving in a way. That's on the opposite side, you're in the water, you glide, you feel a bit like flying.

Q. And you ride a Harley? Do you wear a helmet?

MS: Yes. Yes, at all times!

Q. Mr. Yasukawa, can you tell us why Japanese fans seem to be so passionate about F1 and Ferrari?

HY: I think there are two reasons. One is there is a young, talented driver, Takuma Sato. He's very popular. Also we have two car manufacturers involved, which are Toyota and Honda. Both of them are not using our tires, but anyhow, they are very popular.

Q. Michael, on a personal note your generous contribution to tsunami relief is well known, a $10 million donation. You and your wife have long been philanthropic, particularly with regard to the United Nations children's charities and so forth. What's your philosophy about making those donations?

MS: It was sort of triggered, I think it was in '89 (actually 1990). I won two races in F3, and there was very heavy prize money, it was at the time £20,000, and it was to win both races in Macau and Fuji. They put this prize money out because they didn't expect anyone would win both races! It did happen, by a lot of luck, to me, and it happened that I knew at some stage in the race I would win this money. And when I knew I was going to win this money, I thought what am I going to do with that? My immediate thought was I want to help somebody with it, and especially in the family at that time I had somebody in the family I could help big time, and I did so. Ever since I've had this opportunity to be known, famous, I've raised through some charity auctions a lot of money, and I've earned a lot of money. I feel I should do something for other people as well, that's the main motivation.

Q. Could you tell us the story of the amulet that you wear around your neck, where it came from and what it means to you?

MS: I'm not wearing it right now - I always wear it when I race or qualify - not to wear it out! The fact is my wife made this amulet, it's a special design of hers and it has all the initials of her, the kids, and it has some symbol on it which I believe in. That's what it's about. It's not very much; it gives me a lot of luck.

Q. Mr. Yasukawa, would you tell us a bit about the interrelationship between Bridgestone's racing program and its commercial relationship with manufacturers such as Ferrari?

HY: We have a very good relationship with the Ferrari racing department and also the commercial side as well. If you remember the Ferrari Enzo was put on our tires, 100 percent, tested by maybe Michael, and also now the Super America. It's a very beautiful car, like America, and it's also using our tires. We have with both side a very good relationship.

Q. Michael, right now Fernando is in the same situation as Kimi was two years ago. He had a huge lead, and you were chipping away, and this is what you have to do if you want to win the Championship. Kimi could be a factor, and some of the other guys. Could you comment?

MS: It's obvious that those two guys are the main contenders for the Championship, and those ones are the ones to beat. It's very simple. It would be great if I could finally end up like in 2003.

Q. It's known that the more data you have, the better off you are when you go to a race. Having so few teams working with Bridgestone tires and not having as much data as the other brand, do you feel that that's more of a challenge for both of you?

HY: We have a very good relationship between Ferrari and ourselves. But if we are concerned about the future, maybe we have to be concerned about the balance. At this moment we have a very good relationship. If some teams ask us, we'll be very welcoming, and we'll discuss.

Q. Michael, are you looking forward to the new V8 formula coming?

MS: Put it this way, we're trying to slow down F1 to sort of keep the safety situation at the limit. We kept on improving speed, which we like no doubt, and you like. But on the other side, circuits are built for a certain speed. So we kept just tipping over that edge, and that's why we have had the changes we have seen from last year to this year. That was all the background of it. We're not very successful with all these changes we have been doing, because we probably have five to 10 people thinking about it, changing the rules, making the cars slower, but we have hundreds of engineers doing the complete opposite. It's pretty easy to know who wins! With this V8 engine, I think finally we are going to achieve a big step, because to lose that much power, to gain that back, it's very difficult. In my view the relationship between grip, aerodynamics and engine power, we sort of shifted away. We always changed tires, aerodynamics, but we never looked at the engine. If you see w! hat horsepower we have arrived at, although it's great, I think the ratio should be adjusted a little bit. I'm pretty sure you won't suffer from any attraction of F1 with the V8 or not V8.

Q. Have you ever thought about something you'd like to do, perhaps after F1 - anything else in motorsport that you'd like to accomplish?

MS: I'm not feeling that old yet! Frankly, F1 is the ultimate. So I don't see any reason to feel challenged by any other thing. As I said I'm still feeling pretty young inside, so I have no intention to do something different.

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