1. Eddie Irvine * Ferrari 1:36:38.494 2. Michael Schumacher * Ferrari +1.040 3. Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes +9.743 * subsequently disqualified Q. Eddie, congratulations. You said that Ferrari...
* subsequently disqualified
Eddie Irvine: It's fantastic! This guy is depressing. Although he's the best number 1, he's also the best number 2! I don't know what we are going to do with him, but it's going to be more difficult [for me] next year when I'll be racing against him. I was running at the [fastest] pace that I could run at and the car was very sharp on the turn-in [to the corners]. I was very, very worried that I might spin, especially in the fast section of the track. So I had to make sure I didn't make any mistakes -- and Michael did the hard work for me.
Q. When you came back into the race after your second pit stop, you were a few seconds behind him and not making up time on him. Did you expect him to make a second stop, too, or did you think it was all over?
EI: Well ... we thought we knew he was going to stop (laughs). If he hadn't done so we would have been very surprised. But he had gone so long that [we thought] that was the strategy he was going to have to follow. He probably thought he was quicker than us, but we assumed he was going to have to stay out longer [without stopping] -- and we read it correctly.
Q. Michael, you adopted the unique strategy of running on the softer tyres but making only one stop. Had that been decided before the start, or did you adopt it as the race went along?
MS: We had the option, to be honest, and we took the option of the one-stop even though I had thought we would go for two stops. But afterwards I can say that it worked out just perfectly to make only one stop.
Q. You played the role of the perfect number 2 today, but almost immediately after you had let Eddie through to lead on lap 4 you also found yourself being overtaken by David Coulthard. Was that something you had expected?
MS: No, it wasn't part of the plan. But I knew that I was going to have to go for a very long first stint, so I wanted somehow to protect my tyres by avoiding too much wheelspin. I went fairly slowly out of the first corner, not expecting David to dive down on the inside. But he did, and we touched each other -- which did a bit of damage to my car and had some consequences for me later on. But after David stopped, obviously the situation was a lot easier.
Q. At your first stop it was clear that your tyres were completely destroyed. How did you manage to control the pace so well with virtually no tread left?
MS: Good question! First of all I would say the team has done a great job. Everyone has criticised Ferrari for not developing the car, but this could have been proven [wrong] at the Nurburgring. This time we were able to prove how good our car is, and therefore [this result] is thanks to the team. I don't know how different our lap times were, but I guess they were pretty close. And that's simply because the car is running so well.
Q. Mika, on the podium you looked absolutely exhausted. Are you feeling OK now?
Mika Hakkinen: Yes, I am feeling OK now. A couple of minutes ago it was different. This is the hardest race I have done in my life, a race where you had to go absolutely flat out. These guys played some brilliant tactics, I cannot blame them, they did a good job and they won the race, with Michael 2nd. Obviously for me it was [a matter] of pushing as hard as I could and trying to overtake Michael. His car was very slow, actually, in the high speed corners, and when we came on to the straight it was quite easy [for him] to accelerate at the exit from the corners, so it was impossible to overtake him.
Q. When you were running behind, Michael, the onboard camera behind your head showed you gesticulating at him a couple of times. How frustrating was it to be stuck behind him for lap after lap?
MH: It is just a hard job. Imagine having your car sliding all the time, and I experienced [the feeling that] Michael wasn't being consistent all the time in the different corners. I was always having to be careful. Would he brake here, or in a surprising place? That's obviously why I was having to put maximum concentration into making sure I did not run into the back of him. I suppose that is why I didn't have a chance of trying to overtake him.
Q. You pulled off one very important manoeuvre when you passed Johnny Herbert into 3rd place. That means you're now still only four points behind Eddie in the drivers' championship. Do you still feel confident you can repeat last year's victory?
MH: Why not? I suppose it would be crazy not to think about that, but I am still confident about Suzuka. I went well there last year, so I don't have the feeling we have lost our chances in the championship yet.
Q. Eddie, we know you have lots of experience at Suzuka and you love the circuit. What successes did you have there when you were racing F3000 in Japan?
EI: It was never actually a great circuit for me when I was racing in Japan: I think I only ever won one race there. Bridgestone was the big, strong tyre for Suzuka, and I was always on Yokohama or Dunlop. I remember one particular time we won there: it was a bonanza because the track was so slippery.
Q. Michael is back, and you and Ferrari are four points ahead in the two championships. You must now think you're going to win both titles ...
EI: We have the potential to do it. As Michael says, the car has improved in a big way. Having him back is a big bonus. We have got all the pieces available and now it is up to us to put them in the right places. We have made a good start [on that] today and we controlled the race. If we can do the same at Suzuka it will be a great day for the tifosi, that's for sure.