"A disappointing and frustrating weekend," was how Ferrari's Jean Todt described last Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix in which Michael Schumacher finished a fighting fifth and Felipe Massa ninth. Jean Todt. Photo by xpb.cc. The team's ...
"A disappointing and frustrating weekend," was how Ferrari's Jean Todt described last Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix in which Michael Schumacher finished a fighting fifth and Felipe Massa ninth.
The team's performance was compromised in qualifying on Saturday, said Todt. "If there is a Grand Prix where you have to be in a good position at the start it is Monte Carlo. So of course it was not very pleasing to have one car starting from the pit lane and the other car starting from last position on the grid."
"But there are explanations for that. Felipe made a mistake in first qualifying, and if you make a mistake in this context, that's the price you have to pay. It was different for Michael. Michael was on pole until he lost the car in the last corner and then the stewards, after eight hours of discussion, decided that he was due to leave from the back of the grid."
Todt described Ferrari's position regarding the incident which led to Schumacher's times being cancelled. "We tried to demonstrate the evidence that it was a racing incident and it was not considered. As we did not have the possibility to appeal, either, we did not have any other option but to accept it and to try to get the best out of the situation. There's nothing we can do now. The weekend is over, no right of appeal, so we just have to move forwards."
Todt admitted that people's opinion of Michael Schumacher may have changed. "That's your opinion, that's the stewards' opinion, I agree. When you're in front of a judge, or in front of a tribunal, it doesn't mean that the opinion is always right. There could be a lengthy discussion but it will not change your opinion, it will not change our opinion, it will not change his opinion. It will not be the first time either."
"At the end of the day, if you want to get deeper into what is Michael, who is Michael, what he does in Formula One, for Formula One, outside Formula One, it's up to the people to judge. Some people think that he's nobody, and some others may think that he's somebody. Myself, I am privileged to know him very well and I respect him, I admire him, and I think he's one of the best persons I've ever met. But we cannot avoid people thinking what they want."
Todt admitted that he was surprised by the reactions of people in the paddock to the incident and its consequences. "But we are in a world where people very easily over-react. Personally, I try not to over-react and try to understand exactly what is happening. I know that the majority of the people around were saying that Michael did it on purpose."
"We tried to demonstrate what had happened with the information, with telemetry data we had that it was a driver's mistake. He explained all that at length and we had the telemetry evidence which allowed us to understand. We have, in detail, all the evidence of this special episode.
"It was not taken into consideration. My opinion is that he should have been given what is known as the benefit of the doubt. It's what happens. I feel that the severity of the penalty was exaggerated - my opinion but again, it's over."
But Todt denied that he had lost faith in the FIA, the sport's governing body, whose stewards imposed the penalty. "If there's a team which is respecting the FIA and, I would say, supporting the FIA's decisions, it's Ferrari. Saying that, we cannot always be of the same opinion. Yesterday we had to accept their decision, but we don't share their decision."
Todt explained that his experience as a rally co-driver had helped him come to the conclusion that Schumacher had not deliberately stopped on the circuit. "I have been sitting in a car for 15 years. I was on the other side of the car and probably that has given me the experience to understand a bit better and to see what can happen in the mind of a driver."
Todt disagreed that his team's reputation had been damaged for its support of Schumacher. "Michael has been very much criticised. The team has supported Michael and I don't see where Ferrari should be damaged in what has happened over the weekend."
Michael had been affected by the incident, he said "You know, he's a human being, he was not happy, he was very disappointed about this whole issue, but now he has to put it behind him. He drove a great race in difficult situation and now he's looking forward to the next race."