Sunday 13 September 1998 Winners' press conference: 1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1hr 32:14.789 2. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), +2.2 seconds 3. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), +34.2 seconds Q. Congratulations, Mika, on...
Sunday 13 September 1998 Winners' press conference: 1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1hr 32:14.789 2. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), +2.2 seconds 3. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), +34.2 seconds
Q. Congratulations, Mika, on winning your seventh GP of the season. How does it feel to have taken the lead again in the drivers' championship?
MH: Winning this race obviously gives us the advantage in the championship again. It will also give the team even more motivation to get the car prepared even better for the final race in Japan.
Q. After the start, when you were still in third place behind Eddie Irvine, Michael was disappearing down the road. How worried were you that you might not be able to catch up the lost time?
MH: I don't know whether I would use the word 'worried.' In that situation you have to accept what is happening and maximise your car, your speed and yourself as you try to gain back the places. If that's not possible, you have to do the best that you can. I wasn't too worried, I was just pushing. Straight from the start I was running hard and keeping up the pressure. When Eddie was still leading, at one point he made a small mistake in the chicane and went wide, which gave Michael the opportunity to overtake. I think Eddie must have had a problem with his car because when I was running behind him I could see it all over the place in the corners. That is what allowed me to overtake him.
Q. Once Michael came in for his first stop and you took the lead, your laps times showed that you were pushing extremely hard. How big a risk were you taking by lapping so quickly?
MH: It's very strange. When you are driving flat out and going at your maximum round the corners, you don't think you're taking a risk. You're just trying the maximum and putting the car on the limit. You don't think in terms of taking risks. Everything is very much under control and the only risk comes if something goes wrong and you will go off.
Q. Michael, although you started from pole position, you were beaten away from the line by your team mate Eddie Irvine. Was that part of your team's plans today?
MS: No, it wasn't a Ferrari tactic. Going into the first corner I was slightly behind him and if I had wanted to do so I could have tried to pass on the outside. But I didn't see any reason because I knew there would be an opportunity to go ahead of Eddie later on. I just accepted the situation perfectly: Mika was behind me and, as he said, Eddie made a mistake at the chicane which allowed me to pass him. After that the situation was nice and good. But at this stage the tyres started to go away a little bit and I couldn't push as hard as I wanted. Also, the balance wasn't perfectly right either. We adapted it for the last stint, when the car was a bit better, but it still wasn't enough. We have to accept that we weren't fast enough in the race.
Q. After Mika emerged from his first pit stop, still ahead of you, did Ross Brawn make any changes to the tactics in order to get you back into the lead after your second stop?
MS: No, after that the tactics had already been decided. I was a bit surprised that he had been able to get in front of me, because I had built up a lead of more than five seconds before I came into the pits. I don't know how many laps longer Mika stayed out than I had done, but I was believing it would be enough. Even so, I knew it would be tight. And as you saw, he just took a little bit extra and he got in front of me. Even if I had kept him behind me at the first stop, there would have been another chance for him to get by at the second stop. So overall, as I said before, we have to accept that we weren't fast enough for this race. We now have four or five weeks for more testing, and we are going to use that.
Q. You will have to beat Mika by more than four points in Japan to take the title. What are the things that you can do in these five weeks?
MS: Just like everyone else involved in this fight, I guess we have a heavy programme of testing. We are very close and we will try hard. If not, then still have enough reasons to be very happy about our achievements this year. I believe we still can be proud of ourselves.
Q. David, on the grid we noticed that McLaren was putting a little more fuel in the cars. Was that a late call?
DC: No, it was always part of our plan to decide what was happening with the weather before finalising the fuel on the grid. You are only allowed to add a small amount on the grid, and it wasn't really enough to make any difference.
Q. How confident were you that the track would stay dry?
DC: The forecast we had said it would be dry. You have to believe some of the things you hear, so you may as well believe in your own forecaster. Irrespective of what might have happened later in the race, it was clear that it was dry at the start. I would certainly not have gone into the race with anything but a dry setup.
Q. Mika, will you be testing, too?
MH: Yes, we have testing coming up in Barcelona. Going to Suzuka, it is obviously going to be interesting. We have had some great fights this year, and as Michael said we can be proud of our achievements, whatever happens in Japan. Everyone has done a great job and I am looking forward to it. I would like to add one thing, which is to thank Mario Illien for what he has done. It is one year ago since David and I were running comfortably in first and second places at this race -- and we failed. This year Mercedes and Mario have showed that they can fix problems and be the best. I am happy it happened here.