Japanese GP winner's press conference

Drivers: 1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 2. Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) 3. David Coulthard (Mclaren) Q: Is this the perfect end to the perfect Formula One season for you? Michael SCHUMACHER: Yeah, definitely. Despite the records, to finish...

Drivers: 1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 2. Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) 3. David Coulthard (Mclaren)

Q: Is this the perfect end to the perfect Formula One season for you?

Michael SCHUMACHER: Yeah, definitely. Despite the records, to finish the season with a high in first position, that's what you wish to do and then you go into the long winter break we're going to face now. Obviously, we've had maybe two races which have been a little bit difficult for us, Monza and Indianapolis, now we're back to normality and that's a great end and a great result for the championship we have achieved, to finish off the season for the team, for everyone.

Q: Looking at the race, you leaped into an 11 second lead in the first three or four laps. From then on, it seemed a bit more difficult. Was that you managing the gap or did the car go off a bit?

MS: We had probably the advantage that we were fast in the first couple of laps from our tyres. We then remained very consistent whereas maybe the other guys struggled a little bit in the beginning, but then I started to be consistent and the times started to match. The point was that both times I went out of the pits on my new set of tyres I was always behind Mika, so that I couldn't really use that advantage, I seemed to have initially, for the next two times so I kept the gap to the same margin as before.

Q: Juan Pablo, talk us through that great battle with Rubens on the first couple of laps?

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: I think it was a good race up to the end. As you could see, Rubens was on new tyres, I was on old tyres and the first few laps, as Michael says, there's a huge difference. He got by me into the chicane, but he sacrificed the exit and I had a good run at him into turn one and passed him again. Since then, my tyres began to come back a little bit and I managed to pull away from him and that was it really.

Q: Can you sum up your rookie season for us?

JPM: It's been a good season, I think. I was very unlucky on a number of occasions when I could have had a good result and the car broke down or something happened, and I missed a lot of points. But being my first season, things have been pretty good.

Q: David, third today has captured you second place in the championship. Is that a satisfactory end to what I suppose has been an unsatisfactory championship?

David COULTHARD: Yes, I did everything I could this year and that was it, second place was the best I could do. There was a big gap to where Michael finished. I think I was helped a little bit by Mika at the end there, who, I think, didn't want to have to come and talk to you this afternoon, so I thank him for that. It's nice to finish the season, as Michael said, on the podium. To win would have been fantastic but I've never been that good around Suzuka, so it isn't a bad result.

Q: Did you known in advance that Michael was going to let you through, to thank you, in some way, for the way you helped him in '98 and '99.

DC: No, not at all. He's a very quiet chap, so he doesn't give much away.

Q: Michael, you've really romped away from the championship this year, but how much tougher do you think it's going to be next season?

MS: We will find out. I think it was a tough challenge. We had an easy run the first two races when we were very competitive and dominated but then after that I thought it got very tight and the races we won, we had to fight for quite hard. We were lucky to do the season so early because of some misfortune for David, some mechanical problems he had, and therefore we finished the season early with the championship, but not because we were so dominant, and even now, if you look, it was a fight in the end, we weren't dominant. But the good thing is to keep first position for you in the end, however.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, could you have imagined having such a big lead after the first lap?

MS: Yes, at this stage we weren't sure whether these guys were going on a one stop or two stopper, so seeing the big gap initially, I was wondering if they were on a one stop, but then times stabilized and as I was about ten seconds in front, I managed just to be a little bit faster, open it out to 12s, come back to 10s, so I was pretty sure that at this stage in the game, that it was a two stopper for them, which then surprised me obviously that we were able to go so far ahead.

We had a good weekend altogether. We had a good car, a good package, perfect tyres and everything worked quite well.

Q: In fact you never had as great a lead as you had at the end of the first stint, 11 seconds.

MS: Yes, that was obviously down to unfortunate traffic situation, because every time I came out after my pit stops I was behind Mika actually, which was on old tyres, not so fast compared to what I could have done, and I couldn't get by him. So I had to sacrifice all the time, my good period, spending it in traffic.

Q: We see you half off the circuit at one point. Was that your only moment?

MS: Basically, yes. I went straight on at the chicane once, because I locked up all my tyres, but I made sure I lost time on that lap. Those were the only two situations.

Q: Actually, Juan Pablo went off at the chicane as well and set fastest lap at that time...

JPM: Actually, I don't care. I'm second so... Even though I lifted, it was really quick. Then I lost all the time through the first sector, lost over a second in the first sector, and then I pushed again.

Q: Otherwise, you seemed to enjoy yourself out there.

JPM: Everything was having a look at the Ferrari, especially the car that Michael had was way too quick on new tyres, that's where he won the race, I think. When his tyres were old and my tyres were in a good shape, we were the same or quicker than him. I think we're going to have to work really hard on the tyres during the winter to make sure we will be able to run new tyres because it seems that if we don't really scrub the tyres, we're not competitive. I spent yesterday all day scrubbing tyres and that really cost us.

Q: That first lap, when Rubens overtook you on the grass...

JPM: It really surprised me because I pretty much closed him out under braking and suddenly I saw him sliding in, I thought 'leave him enough room' and when I came out of the corner, I had better speed than him, I managed to get a good tow out of him and go back in front of him through the first corner. It was pretty good after that, because I managed to pull out enough lead that when he used the new tyres and everything, we were still ahead of him.

Q: Otherwise was the car OK; you were talking earlier on about the tyres?

JPM: The car was good, but while the tyres come in, we lose so much time, as we saw with Michael. When he was on new tyres and I was on scrubbed tyres, while the tyres take five or six laps to come in, there's just no competition.

Q: David, what about your day. The car was good third...

DC: Yeah, no the actually balance of the car has been reasonable all weekend. It's one of the best I've had round here. It's just as a package lacking in all areas to go a bit quicker.

Q: Were you a bit surprised at what Mika did?

DC: I don't know, maybe he was stuck in fifth gear, I'm not sure. He was pretty much about five seconds ahead for most of the race and it fluctuated a little bit with traffic and pit stops and then all of a sudden, he slowed down a lot towards the end. If it was to give me a podium, then obviously I thank him. I think it was probably to avoid having to come and deal with interviews everything afterwards. He's done a lot this weekend.

Q: Did you miss the chicane as well, was that the only moment you had?

DC: I didn't miss the chicane actually during the race. I locked up a few times going in there and a few times at the hairpin. I had a problem with low speed grip, but I didn't really have any big moments during the race.

Q: Michael, in the television interview, you said that you didn't think you had dominated this championship, but you set a new record for points and a new record for wins. What exactly is your definition of dominance?

Michael SCHUMACHER: I didn't... no, no, there is a difference between domination of a championship, or a domination of all season. A domination, I call, is if I would have done at all 17 races this year what I have done at the first two races, that's domination. That's not the case. Obviously we had two races being dominant, but then after that it was a very tight battle very often. That's the point I was trying to make, that's clear enough to understand.

Q: I'm interested in the strategy you had to try to help Rubens. What did you discuss before the race and how did you think you could help him?

MS: Obviously in the situation that was Rubens was, I couldn't be any help. First of all, the plan was that he gets by the two Williams and then once he's by them, then obviously I would have let him by and let him do his race. That was the plan. As he couldn't get by, then there's no point in sacrificing my own race and maybe give away first position if whatever happened later in the race, and I think that was quite right.

Q: Michael, what do you think about next season? Will it be a fight against Juan Pablo or will the main competitor be David or your brother?

MS: I expect, obviously, a big battle from both of the teams, and whoever is sitting in the cars. I don't think it is possible to point at one driver and say 'he's the one I'm going to face.' I guess everybody agrees that everybody thought at the beginning of the season it was going to be Mika and then it turned out to be David challenging me. You never know what is going to happen.

Q: David, apart from Indianapolis, the McLaren hasn't seemed as good as the Ferrari and Williams? Are you a bit worried about next season, also because you've lost a team-mate as experienced as Mika?

DC: I think it's difficult to make a comparison when you have different tyres, so to compare us with the Williams is quite difficult, and clearly they've been strong in other areas, not just the car. Between ourselves and Ferrari, it's unusual because there have been some tracks where we've been very competitive to them and obviously other tracks like here where there has been a big big difference. It's a little difficult to fully understand that but I see no reason why, with the same group of people who were able to do design a car in '98 that was dominant, then there's no reason why it's not possible to come back there again. I just hope it's next year.

Q: Could you make a comment about Jean who is leaving Formula One?

MS: I guess we've said many things this weekend already, but to repeat: obviously most of us are going to be very sad. He's a great racer, he's a friend of mine and particularly it was will be quite sad because I think he still has the speed, and if you look around Formula One there are probably other drivers who should retire earlier than him. But that's the way it goes. On the other hand, I would like to say that you never know. The winter is long, and with Jean... we will find out what happens next year...

JPM: I didn't know him that well but I followed his career when I was watching the races and he's a great driver.

Q: What kind of instructions were you given during the drivers' briefing concerning the use of the white line exiting the pit lane and driving through the chicane?

MS: There was no particular instruction in the drivers' briefing. It was clear all weekend that you were not allowed to pass the line on the pit exit and you can cross it on the pit entry. And cutting the chicane, you have to make sure that you don't get any time or gain any position or whatever. That was the basis situation we were all aware of, but there was no particular mention of it.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Williams