Japanese GP winners' press conference

Sunday 1 November 1998 Post-race winners' press conference 1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:27:22.535 2. Eddie Irvine (Ferrari), 6.5 seconds behind 3. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 27.7 seconds behind Q. Congratulations, Mika,...

Sunday 1 November 1998 Post-race winners' press conference

1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:27:22.535 2. Eddie Irvine (Ferrari), 6.5 seconds behind 3. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 27.7 seconds behind

Q. Congratulations, Mika, on winning the race and the title. How does it feel to be world champion?

MH: I don't know how to start telling you my feelings. Since I started to race in 1991 it has been a fight every year as I tried to maximise my results, personally and for my team. Since I joined this team in 1993, and now with West-McLaren-Mercedes, I have been able to continue the effort to win races. But it has taken a long time. Now that it has happened, and looking back over all that time to see what we have achieved, we can be happy about it. Without those hours of hard work by the people in the factory, by the designers and the people in marketing, together with the partners of the team, we would still not have become winners. But the hard work has brought us here to where we are: we have won the championship.

Q. At the second attempt, immediately after Michael Schumacher had stalled his engine and caused the start to be aborted, you appeared to roll forward past your own mark. Were you at all concerned that you, too, would be sent to the back of the grid?

MH: No, not at all. When the red lights come on, you know you have to go for it when they go out. Well, they didn't go off, of course, and the yellow light started flashing. I was so hyped up that I still went for it. But I knew immediately that the start procedure had been stopped, and that it was OK.

Q. When Michael stalled at the second attempt to leave the grid, did that leave you feeling that the pressure had been released?

MH: Yes, it did!

Q. With Michael having to make his third start from the back of the grid, how easy was it to control the race from the front?

MH: It was easier than some of the races have been this year. I have been in much more difficult situations than at this Grand Prix, but obviously I was aware this morning of the pressure that was falling on me. It was disturbing my performance a little bit, which I would say is very normal. But then I seemed to calm down quite a lot and it was quite easy to control the situation. The team played a big part in it by keeping me supplied with information, letting me know exactly what was going on, for example between David and Eddie. But there is always one problem when you are leading easily like that -- and it happened to me with about ten laps to go -- which is the tendency for your mind to start thinking about things other than driving. I almost started whistling inside the car ...

What made it more difficult was knowing that Michael was out of the race and having to concentrate. But Ron [Dennis] came on the radio a couple of times to remind me to stay cool. It worked ...

Q. Eddie, that was a very fine race to second place. What are your feelings about it?

EI: It was strange to have Michael starting from the back of the grid, because suddenly I realised that it was down to me. I knew I had to get stuck in -- it was almost like flicking a switch -- and I made a fantastic start. Then I pushed like hell to get Mika. But although I could hang with him, the margin would come and go. Then my tyres took a little dive at the end of the first stint, which allowed him to get away from me again. After my first pit stop I started to get back at him again, until my tyres [performance] dropped down again and once again he started to get away at the end of the stint. It is a shame I wasn't able to put him under more pressure, to try and maybe get my first win.

Q. Did it change your race tactics to have Michael starting behind you from the back of the grid?

EI: It didn't change them, it destroyed them! For the past two or three days we have been discussing the possibilities if Mika had been there, or Michael here, with me or David somewhere else. There must have been at least 16 permutations to consider. Eventually it was a question of Michael having to get up to at least 2nd position, which isn't exactly easy when you're starting from the back of the grid. When Mika got off into the lead it became a straight race, to see which of us was going to win.

Q. David, at the start Heinz-Harald Frentzen appeared to have got through while you appeared to be trying to head off Eddie. Is that what happened?

DC: Yes. On my green flag lap starts I seemed to be a bit low on the rpm. Normally that wouldn't have been a problem, but because the start was aborted my engineer was able to warn me to keep the revs up. That made me think before the eventual start proper, when I gave it too many rpm and spun the wheels. I was so preoccupied in trying to make sure Eddie didn't get the jump on me that it allowed Heinz to go round the outside. I then spent a pretty dull first stint stuck behind Heinz. In dirty air here it is so difficult to make any headway -- and I needed to be sure of finishing the race in case anything happened to Mika's car, for the sake of the constructors' title -- that it meant I was probably not as aggressive in trying to pass them as I could have been. Nonetheless, it was a pretty uneventful race to third place for me.

Q. Mika, your manager Keke Rosberg was Finland's first world champion driver, back in 1982. You must have been glad of his support here ...

MH: I am sure Keke is happy. He is here, commentating for Finnish television, and we spoke before the race. At some of the races he has been to this year he was terribly nervous. But he wasn't nervous at all here, which was a good sign!

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Keke Rosberg
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren