Q. Mika, congratulations on your first win after so many disappointments. And it all happened in the last lap ... MH: Yes, it's pretty unbelievable. The race was interesting from start to finish, at least it was for me. At the ...
Q. Mika, congratulations on your first win after so many disappointments. And it all happened in the last lap ...
MH: Yes, it's pretty unbelievable. The race was interesting from start to finish, at least it was for me. At the start of the race I lost some time behind Jacques and I wanted to go quicker. But he was fighting for the championship and it would have been far too risky for me to try any overtaking manoeuvre. I more or less decided to stay behind him. Then coming into the last couple of laps there was a Jordan in front of us, and Jacques was there too. David was in front of me, too ... and from my point of view it was fantastic.
Q. Until then, did you ever believe that you could have won today?
MH: I never would have thought that we would win. Then I got the opportunity [to pass David]. I don't know exactly what happened, because it was a strange place to overtake David, but for my benefit it was fantastic.
Q. David, you started the season with a win in Melbourne. You must be delighted to finish second here.
DC: Yes, it was my goal to be on the podium here and I am happy to be here. I am also delighted for the team that we got a 1 2. We had a little help from Jacques at the end, and I let Mika through to give him a chance to push because I couldn't make any headway against the Jordan. And he was obviously quick enough to go past Jacques at the chicane.
Q. Jacques, this has been a season of changing fortunes for you. Third place today gives you the points you need and the result you wanted.
JV: Yes, the championship feels great. It's been an up and down season and we have been the most competitive team since the beginning of the year. But there have been many races where we didn't get the job done. I made a few mistakes, the team also, and somehow things didn't go right when they should have gone right. After the disqualification at Suzuka it feels great to have won the title here.
Twenty laps from the end, after I overtook Michael, I was a little worried about the state of the car. I was not really surprised when he finally decided to turn in on me it was a little bit expected and I knew I was taking a bit of a risk. But when he touched me we banged wheels and my car jumped in the air. I really felt that the crash had broken something. Luckily he went off the road, but my car felt very strange. Especially in right hand corners the rear end was not at all stable. I could only push hard for a few laps because the tyres were heating up in a strange way. I could push, then slow down, then push again.
Towards the end Nakano was in my mirrors and I didn't want to be looking in the mirrors all the time, so I let him go by. After that everyone was getting very close to me, including Mika. At the beginning of the race, when he was quicker [than me], he didn't want to be part of the fight and he stayed out of the battle later on in the race. So when I saw him coming up in my mirrors it was a question of either pushing like a maniac and taking the risk of going off because of the strange way the car was handling, or looking out in case he made a move, just to let him through. When he did make his move I let him through. David was very close, too, so I didn't fight him either.
Q. How did you learn that Michael Schumacher was out of the race? Did you get a message on the radio?
JV: No, I knew it right away because the way he hit me was really, really hard. I am surprised that I was actually able to finish the race. When he came over on me I couldn't move over any further because I was already on the grass. Either Michael had his eyes closed or somehow his hands slipped off the steering wheel or something ...
Q. In the first half of the race Michael had an advantage on you, then you seemed to get it back. Can you explain that?
JV: Yes, Michael had three sets of new tyres and we only had two. So we started the race on old tyres. Even so, I don't know how we managed to make [such a fast] start because it was very slippery and I had a lot of wheelspin even though I had not made a bad start. When Michael took off like a rocket I was very surprised, so I didn't close the door on him and just let him through. After a few more laps he must have had a problem because he started to slow down. From that moment it was just a question of fighting against Michael. But he already had a five seconds lead. Even though I was pushing all the way it was a very tough race and I just couldn't get close to him until we went on to the new tyres.
Q. Was there any point in the race when you thought you had lost it?
JV: On the first set it didn't look good, because I was pushing and I still couldn't catch Michael. One lap he would go slower, and then I would go faster, and so on. It was also becoming a very physical race, because we were doing qualifying laps all the way, which made this one of the most difficult races I have ever done. Then as soon as I put on the new tyres and started to get close to him I thought, 'OK, now we can make a move.' But then somehow we came up to a Sauber driver who opened the door very wide for Michael and decided to stay in front of me. They are using the same engine, of course, which may have something to do with it ... That blocked me for half a lap which gave Michael a three second lead and it was very difficult to catch him before the second pit stop, after which his tyres somehow didn't seem to work.
For this and the other press conferences see: http://www.fia.com/presse/f1conf-en
--- David Goodwin