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Belgian GP winners' press conference

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Sunday 30 August 1998 Post race winners' press conference 1. Damon Hill (Jordan-Mugen/Honda), 1hr 43:47.07s (177.23 km/h) 2. Ralf Schumacher (Jordan-Mugen/Honda), 0.93 second behind 3. Jean Alesi (Sauber-Petronas), 7.24 seconds...

Sunday 30 August 1998 Post race winners' press conference 1. Damon Hill (Jordan-Mugen/Honda), 1hr 43:47.07s (177.23 km/h) 2. Ralf Schumacher (Jordan-Mugen/Honda), 0.93 second behind 3. Jean Alesi (Sauber-Petronas), 7.24 seconds behind

Q. Congratulations, Damon, on your first victory since you won the world championship in 1996. It must be a great feeling ...

DH: This is a great day for Jordan. To win our first GP and get a one-two result is a fantastic result. We were strong all weekend, it has been a very exciting race, I am absolutely delighted ... in fact I am lost for words.

Q. Everyone was astonished to see you take the lead at La Source after the second start ...

DH: Well, I got lucky because I had made a mess of the first start -- and then it was aborted because of the crash. But I made a beautiful second start and once I got away I was looking good. The trouble was that I had the car set up for a race that [I expected to be] getting drier. That really made it a difficult race for me.

Q. What was your reaction after Michael had passed you when you found him driving slowly round to the pits with only three wheels?

DH: I didn't actually see his car, but I heard by radio that he was out of the race. But you don't have time to be emotional about things like that. It's a very responsible position to be in when you're leading a race, so I focused on doing what I needed to do to hold the lead.

Q. Your team mate Ralf Schumacher stayed close to you after the final restart. Were you at all concerned that he might try to find a way past you?

DH: It was always going to be quite close after the Safety Car had been sent out, and I knew that Ralf would be pushing me all the way to the finish because he didn't have very much space between himself and Jean [Alesi] behind him. So I had to push as hard as I could. Then it started to get a bit drier and the tyres began to go off, so I was under pressure all the way.

Q. How did the battle with Michael go early on?

DH: I don't know what happens here. [Michael] seems to be able to change the weather depending on what he wants. From the start, it looked to me as though he had more downforce. I went for the intermediates on the grid and after the restart I went for a lower downforce setting in the assumption that it was going to get better. It worked for a few laps and then it started to rain again, and it worked against me. Michael was able to close and then get past. It was quite a tricky race. There was one point when I went to go past a Prost at Stavelot and he didn't see me and we touched. He got a bit of a fright.

Q. At one point you were on the grass at the bus stop ...

DH: It was very tricky conditions today. It was never raining really hard, but it was raining at different parts of the circuit. Some parts were very wet, some parts were not so wet. Visibility was terrible. Lots of incidents, lots of people going off, so there was a hell of a lot to look out for.

Q. Ralf, congratulations on your first podium finish since Argentina last year. How does it feel?

RS: I am obviously very happy, both for the team and for us two. We had a very bad start to this season which made things difficult. It has all turned around now with first and second places here -- with a bit of luck, I must admit -- but I think this was a good, strong performance. We had to struggle a bit at the beginning because of making the wrong tyre choice, but then it went OK and after the Safety Car made its second appearance we just settled for the one-two. We had to keep pushing, though, because Jean was so close behind.

Q. At the first start, before all those cars began crashing, you seemed to anticipate what was going to happen, and you pulled over and almost stopped. What had you seen?

RS: It was quite funny because I just spotted a McLaren [sideways] in front of me and then I saw the mess going on all around me. So I moved my car left, parked it in neutral and waited ... just in time to see an Arrows suddenly missing me by about ten centimetres. Then when everything had settled, I just engaged a gear and went through.

Q. Jean, was this an equally unexpected first podium for you and Sauber?

JA: Of course, yes. This is unbelievable for the team because so far we hadn't seen such a level of competition between different cars. With so many cars usually finishing the races we have had a problem getting points. It was only in conditions like these that we have a possibility of getting any points at all, so I am really happy for the team that we have taken four really important points.

Q. Once the Safety Car had been withdrawn for the second time, you were able to get close to Damon and Ralf. Were you tempted to try to pass them?

JA: No, to be honest I was able to run behind them at the same speed, but it would have been absolutely impossible to try anything because the visibility was zero. In fact I was quite surprised when the Safety Car was brought in and we were allowed to race again, because I personally believe that it was still extremely dangerous. It was particularly bad on the straights where there were cars abandoned by the side of road and we were aquaplaning. That could have been extremely dangerous.

Q. But you were really pushing hard towards the end ...

JA: Sometimes Peter [Sauber] was saying 'slow, slow!' That was quite funny for me, but I was very concentrated to stay on the circuit. The conditions were changing non-stop. It was tough, especially at the beginning with intermediates. When I put full wet tyres on it was quite easy except for visibility.

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