Madonna di Campiglio, 17th January - Before tackling the ski slopes, Michael Schumacher held a press conference this morning as part of the Wroom event. The German spoke about how he had spent the past few months, holidaying and also training in...
Madonna di Campiglio, 17th January - Before tackling the ski slopes, Michael Schumacher held a press conference this morning as part of the Wroom event.
The German spoke about how he had spent the past few months, holidaying and also training in preparation for the coming season.
"When you have worked in F1 for a long time, you know exactly what you must do to prepare for the coming championship. However, this time it was a bit different, because almost never before over the past few years, have I spent so much time without competing in any sport. I had fun playing soccer and I feel in good shape, partly because of the good results last season and also thanks to the long gap which we have had. I relaxed with the family and recharged my batteries for what I hope will be another great season for us."
Schumacher was also asked how he maintained a high level of motivation after the past two extraordinary seasons.
"It's never a problem for me to stay motivated," explained Michael. "Given there are only 24 drivers in the world competing in F1, is already enough to be really satisfying and being in a top team is the best thing that can happen to you. Motor racing is my life. It always has been and I always wanted it that way. It is not a question of motivation. I race because I love it."
The German was also asked what plans he had when the day comes that he hangs up his helmet. "I haven't thought about it yet. I've been asked often enough, but now is not the time to think about it. As long as I can drive, I will do so."
Schumacher also gave his thoughts on the forthcoming F1 season.
"I think the main threat will come from my brother and his team-mate. McLaren is an unknown quantity because they have changed tyre supplier and so we don't know how quickly they will adapt to the change.
"I think though that McLaren and Williams-BMW will pose us the biggest threat, and I also reckon the BMW engine will be even stronger this year, added to which, Williams will have a better understanding of the tyres. McLaren has been very quick in testing, but that is perfectly normal as they were running last year's car, which was usually the quickest in the 2001 championship. We will have to wait to see the new cars to see where everyone stands."
As for the other major constructors taking part in 2002, Renault, Jaguar and Honda, Michael said: "There is no reason to think they cannot become top teams, as they have everything they need to do so. However, it takes time and given how things went last year it's unrealistic to think they can make a very big step forward in a short space of time and challenge for the title. This is only my opinion and, of course, I could be wrong."
Michael was then asked about the other drivers. "Coulthard is a very strong driver and he is bound to be a threat. We will have to wait and see how quick David is and also Kimi Raikkonen."
Asked about the fact he would no longer be up against Hakkinen, Schumacher said: "Sometimes Mika was too quick! Probably, my life would have been a bit easier if he had not been around. But Mika will also be missed for his human qualities and because he was always a great and fair competitor."
Schumacher also spoke about his relationship with Ferrari and the fact he was not looking elsewhere. "I would not change teams for no good reason," he said. "We have a marvellous team, which is not only competitive but also very strong on the human side. I am on friendly terms with the management and the mechanics and I can see me staying with Ferrari for many more years. It might not be very realistic, but I can't see my life changing very much to the way it is now.
"We are a very united team," continued the German. "We talk a lot. Over the years, the team has never taken a decision which I reckon was bad for the team and the team has never felt that I have made a poor decision. We nearly always have the same opinion. The team is run by Jean Todt and Luca di Montezemolo and neither of them has ever asked me to take a decision for them. They are doing a great job."
"Rubens is an important part of the team," said Michael when questioned about his team-mate. From what I can see, the team give him the same support they offer me. I have no doubt about that. Ferrari is a big team and perfectly capable of running two cars. There is no difference in the equipment they provide us with. The team is very happy with the job Rubens is doing and it has a good relationship with him. The two of us work well together. Sometimes we might have the odd problem, but it's inevitable that there are differences of opinion. However, the situation is very clear and the two of us enjoy a great working relationship."
Michael was asked why he tested at Fiorano last Monday and what was his impression of the test. "I just wanted to make sure I could still drive a racing car! I had been away from the cockpit for such a long time, I was a little bit concerned. I felt the need to drive on a track and so I called Todt and asked him if I could test. It gave me the opportunity to try the latest changes to the gearbox and a few other parts.
"I am happy with the testing work," continued the world champion. "The new things we have tried have brought an increase in performance. As for reliability, when we first tried the new gearbox after the winter break, we had a few problems, because it is a completely new solution. It's good to see that now we can do a lot of laps and the last few tests were very important."
Michael was of course asked about the new car and how it differs to last year's.
"It will be a completely new car, even if the changes aren't radical. It is definitely an evolution of last year's car and not a totally new project. Sometimes you have to start with a clean sheet of paper. However, this time, taking into account our experience from last year, we have just combined it with some new ideas. The aerodynamics will definitely be different. We have a new gearbox and some other new parts. That's why I reckon it's a completely new car."
Schumacher was asked about the possibility of using the 2001 car at the start of this season. "Our programme is based on running the new car right from the first race. It's true we have the possibility of using last year's car if we need to, but I don't think that will be the case. In any case, I am confident that we will be in Melbourne with the new car."
Michael was quizzed about F1 safety, specifically about the possibility of using tarmac instead of gravel in the run-off areas. "I am in favour of using tarmac. In Fiorano we have already adopted this method and I think it's a great idea. But there is still a lot to learn. There will still be accidents and safety will remain a fundamental element as far as I am concerned. There is always room for improvement."
Schumacher ended by talking about his hobbies and interests in other sports. "The real reason I did not have any time to do any sport during the break is that, for the first time, I had my "summer holiday" in the winter. I went to Mauritius with the whole family and we just lazed around in T-shirts. In the first week, I did very little sport and I ate a lot and I realised I was putting on weight. So I immediately started doing some exercise to compensate. In Mauritius I also played a bit of soccer and went cycling with my wife. Unfortunately, it's not very easy to go cycling in winter and I mainly played indoor football. In Norway, I did some cross- country skiing for the first time and it was an interesting experience. Apart from that, I spent a lot of time in the gym, which I do a lot of during the summer when I am at home."