F1

Japanese GP winners' press conference

Q. Congratulations, Michael, on your fifth victory of the season. This must have been one of your most satisfying races ever! MS: Yes, you can believe that! Q. What were the team tactics at the start? MS: Obviously the...

Q. Congratulations, Michael, on your fifth victory of the season. This must have been one of your most satisfying races ever!

MS: Yes, you can believe that!

Q. What were the team tactics at the start?

MS: Obviously the plan was to see what Villeneuve was planning. And at the beginning he wanted to hold everyone up and to make life difficult, particularly for me. He probably knows he's not going to score any points from this race, so he wanted to make sure I would lose as many points as he could do. That meant slowing me down and arranging for other cars to get in front of me. It didn't work in the end, because Eddie took an opportunity to pass us both in a very good manoeuvre. So then we threw away the first plan and switched to another.

Q. You got a big advantage in the first pit stop when you returned to the track just in front of Jacques. To what extent were you able to plan that?

MS: Yes, it's true I got an advantage there. For a while we thought [the Williams drivers] would be going for one stop only. It was then a surprise [when they went for two] and it was quite critical, because Jacques came across the road [in front of me] and tried to close the door. I am not sure whether it was the correct thing to do, to come across the road and try to push someone. I was able to correct my own situation and took him on the inside, but it could have been very dangerous.

Q. When you and Eddie changed positions, it seemed that Eddie slowed down deliberately. Were you talking to the pits at that stage?

MS: We had obviously talked through the various procedures, and one reason that Eddie was able to disappear was that Villeneuve was still slowing me down. Once I had got past Villeneuve too, I talked it through with the team how he would then let me by, to allow me to get a victory and take maximum points.

Q. Did you enjoy being able to plan this sort of thing? We don't see much teamwork in F1 these days.

MS: That's true! But I have said many times that Eddie is a great driver and a fine team mate. I really have to thank him for this victory. And if any question marks i have been raised about his future, I think they should be forgotten now.

Q. Heinz Harald, well done on finishing second. You seemed to be much faster in the second part of the race than in the first. Was there a particular reason for that?

HHF: Basically I tried to be quick on the straights, so I was running very little downforce. At the beginning when I was behind the other guys that didn't work out. I had a bit of understeer from the beginning, too, and my plan was just to keep on going. But I also had quite a lot of fuel on board and it was difficult to keep up with the other guys.

Q. Did you have team orders? Were you kept aware of Jacques' position?

HHF: I was trying to be as quick as possible, and to get the best possible result. For sure we would have appreciated being in front of Michael and being able to take any points away from him. But I have to say that Jacques behaved very fairly towards Michael. Many people believed that Jacques was going into this race with the intention of pushing Michael off, but I don't think that was his target at all.

Q. Towards the end, when you were catching up with Michael, did you believe you had any chance of passing him?

HHF: Catching up with someone on this track is one thing, but overtaking is a completely different challenge. I think it would have been a bit difficult, even though I knew that Michael wouldn't be taking too many risks.

Q. Eddie, this has been an enjoyable race for you today. Did it go as you expected?

EI: We had an idea that Jacques would be trying to hold up Jacques. I also had a few ideas about how to pass him and it went pretty much to plan. Then I started to pull away and I was just waiting for the phone call. As soon as Michael had got past Jacques in the pit stop it was obvious that I would have to slow down and allow Michael to build up a gap on Villeneuve. It was disappointing [to lose the lead], but if Michael hadn't been challenging for the championship I would not have been in that position.

Q. It looked exciting on the TV when you and Michael swapped positions. Was that all planned?

EI: We had it sort of planned where we were going to do it and it worked out well. Apart from Heinz getting past me at the pit stop, the whole race worked out pretty well.

Q. You seemed a bit slower at the end, which allowed Mika Hakkinen to close up. Was there a reason for that?

EI: For some reason the car was understeering very badly on the last set of tyres. I was also locking the front brakes, so I had obviously lost a lot of front end grip on that set. Nothing seemed to be working right and I was having to move the brake balance more and more to the rear. So I just concentrated on being fast through the last corner and getting on to the straight as quickly as possible. There was no point in pushing any harder because Hakkinen was quicker than me everywhere. I just had to make sure that I was as quick as possible through the important sections of the circuit.

For this and the other press conferences see: http://www.fia.com/presse/f1conf-en

--- David Goodwin

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