Sunday 16 August 1998 Post race winners' press conference: 1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1hr 45:25.55s (174.062 km/h) 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 9.4 seconds behind 3. Jacques Villeneuve ...
Sunday 16 August 1998
Post race winners' press conference: 1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1hr 45:25.55s (174.062 km/h) 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 9.4 seconds behind 3. Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Mecachrome), 44.4 seconds behind
Q. Congratulations, Michael, on this enormously popular fifth victory of the season. After having to concede superiority to McLaren in Austria and Germany, you must be delighted today ...
MS: The last two races were a tough time for us. After qualifying third here yesterday I still believed that things would go better in the race, but as soon as it started it didn't look as though there was any chance of getting past the McLarens. We had gone for a three-stop strategy, which seemed to be the wrong choice initially because I was behind Jacques. When the two McLaren guys came out still in front of me after their pit stops I really started to worry, because it should have been the other way around and I was still in Position 3. But then the race developed in a way that allowed me to keep up hope. I knew there was still a long way to go, so I told myself to keep pushing -- and finally it worked. Obviously the opposition had some problems, but at one stage I had gone into the lead without realising it. In fact I was calling the pits on the radio to ask what was going on, because I was on fresher tyres and lower fuel than Hakkinen and I wanted to know why he was pulling away from me. In fact I was already in first place -- and that's the reason I went off the road. I was pushing so hard to keep in contact that I then had a little 'off.' But after the last pit stop, coming out in front of Damon, I was able to pull out a big enough gap to be sure of staying in front. After that it was pretty easy, but up to that moment it had been 60 laps at qualifying speeds, which is pretty tough on this circuit. But that's what you have to be prepared for ...
Q. You've now cut the gap separating you from Mika back to seven points. You can't have anticipated that, I guess ...
MS: You dream about the ideal result, and that was one of the dreams I had. Coming here I thought it would have to stay a dream, because the best I could hope to achieve was for Mika to be first and for me to be second. What's happened to day is obviously ideal for my championship hopes, and now we are coming up to circuits on which our chances will be mixed, some good and others not so good. I think we have a pretty good chance, actually. Goodyear has been doing a great job and I have to say that a large proportion of our success is due to their work. I also want to pay tribute to the team, because everything worked out, thanks to the hard work we did all last week and the very good strategy that we worked out for today's race. It's obviously pleasing and I thank them.
Q. David, this is the third consecutive race in third place for you. How did things work out for you today?
DC: At first, when I was running second to Mika, and could play with the gap separating me from Michael in third place, everything seemed to be working out normally. But later in the race everything changed around. It became apparent to me that Michael was on a three-stopper when he came out in front of me after his very fast second stop. At that point his pace was just too quick: I couldn't push the tyres any harder because they seemed to be on the limit in what I could take from the front tyres under braking and from the rear tyres under acceleration. There was no way I could run at the pace that Michael was running at that stage. Then for three or four laps after Mika developed his problem I was losing a couple of seconds every lap. When I hit a bit of traffic, the damage was done. By the time Michael came out in front of me on fresh tyres after his third stop, with the same fuel load as me, it was impossible to touch him.
Q. Now that Michael has closed back up on Mika, will you be helping your team mate in his bid for the championship?
DC: I have been helping him all year! But he now has a better chance of taking the title than I do, so it will be something for me to consider.
Q. Jacques, with two 3rd places in a row you must be happy. Did you expect to be able to get a podium place again here?
JV: I knew we would get 4th, and 3rd if one of the cars in front developed a problem -- which is what happened. Today the Goodyear tyres seemed to develop more performance over a long distance, which was good. The biggest difficulty for me today was being stuck behind Damon for most of the race and losing a lot of time. But I also had a mechanical problem with the car when the power steering failed, which meant it became a very tough race. Around half distance I also had a fright when lots of the lights started flashing on the dashboard. But I have no idea what caused that.
Q. Do these two results mark a change in Williams fortunes?
JV: The car certainly seemed to get better as the race went on. We managed to get a good setup for the last run of qualifying, and we improved on that for the race itself. It was a bit difficult to run hard for the first ten laps, until the rubber went down, but after that the balance of the car was very good and I could drive pretty aggressively. I am really happy about that, and with the way the team worked.
Q. Michael, the next circuit is Spa-Francorchamps, where you have won four times. Does that make you feel confident?
MS: Spa certainly seems to have been a lucky race for me. It is almost a home race for me, too, because it is fairly close to my home town. It is a special circuit anyway, and driving-wise I love it, so I am looking forward to going there in two weeks. This year we have been strong at circuits like Magny-Cours and Silverstone, where we have developed the car and the tyres, and there is no reason why we should not be competitive in Belgium, too.