Pole position press conference 1. Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1:39.688 2. Eddie Irvine Ferrari 1:40.635 3. David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1:40.806 Pole position press conference (TV unilaterals) 1. Michael...
Pole position press conference
1. Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1:39.688 2. Eddie Irvine Ferrari 1:40.635 3. David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1:40.806
Q. Congratulations, all three of you. For Michael, though, this has been an amazing return to F 1 after three months away. Two weeks ago, Michael, could you ever have dreamed of being on pole position with the nearest McLaren more than one second behind you?
Michael Schumacher: No -- and that is a very clear answer. We had expected to be strong, as I have mentioned several times already this weekend, but to be one second ahead was clearly surprising. There will be some reasons for this, for sure, but the team has done some tremendous work in the last few races and I am pretty sure that you would have seen this already for Eddie at the Nürburgring, if the weather circumstances had allowed. But we have definitely made a big step. The car is very good -- so it is no real surprise for me to be at the front.
Q. To do a single fast lap is one thing, but the race will be quite another. Given your physical condition, together with the heat and the humidity that you have experienced today, how do you feel you will be able to cope tomorrow?
MS: If you look at Eddie, he sweats more than me. But I am not so bad, I am not surprised. I did 40 laps yesterday and almost 40 more today, but my neck is [giving me no trouble]. I am feeling in shape and looking forward to tomorrow. It's going to be a hot race, but that shouldn't be a big problem.
Q. I have to ask this: if you are leading on the last lap, with Eddie in second place, will you let him through?
MS: We all know the answer. Yes!
Q. Eddie, you were very quick again today, but you didn't do a final run even though David was out there at the time and could have bumped you out of second place. Why was that?
Eddie Irvine: Well, I wanted to keep a set of [fresh] tyres for the race. I didn't think a last run was too important for me. DC had already made three attempts at going faster [than my time] but he still hadn't broken into the 1m 41s. I thought that even if he broke into that time sector it wouldn't be by very much -- which he did. He has done a little better than I expected ... and it was nice of him to dump Mika behind him on the second row.
Q. How much of this weekend's improvement is due to Ferrari team work and how much to the Michael Schumacher factor?
EI: Who knows? We have the car [set up] pretty much as it was at the Nurburgring -- there's very little difference -- but at Nurburgring we never got a chance to do better. The potential of the car was there, and I could quite easily have been on pole, if I had got a lap together. Now we have showed its potential -- and it's come at just the right time.
Q. You must be pleased with the way the grid will be arranged, because Mika Hakkinen is directly behind you and is therefore unlikely to get past you going into the first corner ...
EI: Well, he shouldn't have too many problems getting past DC -- unless that little bung (bribe) that I gave DC works!
Q. David, you have again outqualified Mika, but not for pole position. Are you happy with third place?
David Coulthard: Well, of course not. There is quite a gap between ourselves and Michael, although it's not so much to Eddie. That's only over one lap, but they [the Ferraris] have been looking pretty competitive. We have a bit of work to do before tomorrow's race.
DC: Well, we all know Michael is better than Eddie, which is part of the reason (laughter). As for why it is such a big gap, who knows? We just have to go away [to investigate]. We certainly haven't got the car perfect for this track, but because it is such a varied mix of corners I am sure that nobody has got his car completely right.
Q. Was Eddie right? Will Mika find an easy way past you early in the race?
DC: Yes. I won't be making it difficult for Mika (Schumacher: 'Why not?') because he is going for the drivers' championship, and I want McLaren-Mercedes to win both world championships.
Q. Michael, do you anticipate a complicated strategy in the race? Or is your plan to go hell for leather right from the start?
MS: We will have a certain strategy -- and my plan is to go flat out right to the end. Then we will see who is in what position and make whatever decisions are necessary then. It will be very interesting...