"Now we have to close one chapter and open another one; that's part of the Ferrari history," said Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's team principal Jean Todt after Sunday's season-closing Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. It hadn't had the conclusion...
"Now we have to close one chapter and open another one; that's part of the Ferrari history," said Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's team principal Jean Todt after Sunday's season-closing Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. It hadn't had the conclusion that Todt might have hoped for; even though Felipe Massa had won a convincing home victory, and Michael Schumacher had fought through from last to fourth after a puncture, Ferrari had won neither Constructors' nor Drivers' title and now Michael Schumacher had driven his last Grand Prix.
"In a way it's a good thing that the championship is over," said Todt. "We feel a certain disappointment, because winning nine Grands Prix out of 18 - seven for Michael, two for Felipe - we would have preferred to bring home the championships, or at least one. It did not happen. We were facing a very strong competitor, and they simply managed to score more points than we did. Saying that, I think Ferrari has been very strong this year."
"Probably the biggest reward I can see is the quality of the team, the quality of the people, the atmosphere we have in the team. We have great drivers, great engineers, great mechanics, great partners and it's a chapter which is ending with the decision Michael has taken to retire from Formula One as a driver. I definitely feel sad about that even if I share and understand his decision."
"Michael would probably rather have preferred to finish with a different result this year but I would say that he has demonstrated again what kind of a fighter he is. We were far behind at a certain period of the championship and we came back two races before the end of the championship. But we were not reliable enough in the two last races and it has been paid at a high cost which is fair. So no complaints."
Todt wasn't at all surprised by Michael's fight back during the 71 lap Brazilian Grand Prix. "Michael is a fabulous driver. His record is simply unique, so don't ask me if I was surprised about his drive today. I was simply disappointed that Michael has had to fight since yesterday's fuel pump problem, then overtaking Fisichella he had a puncture and was almost lapped. Felipe slowed down a bit to let Michael come back. Michael is unique and he has demonstrated that again today."
But Todt was emphatic that Ferrari would never be the same again. Asked how confident he was that the team can pick itself up from this year and go on without Michael Schumacher, Todt replied "time will tell. We have said that a few changes will be announced in the next few days for next year and we will do that. A few changes will be announced and we will stick to what we have said, but it's a bit too early to start to speak about the Australian race in '07."
"We have about five months before we will start another championship, so we will do our best to start better than we did this year, because we know how important it can be to score points at the beginning of the championship. It will definitely be different, it will never be the same without Michael, particularly for the people who have been working, like me, for so many years with him.
"We have been building, creating such a fantastic relationship, even if Michael will remain in the family, which will be a big asset for all the company, for all the team, but it will definitely be different. We will try our best, as we have always been doing, sometimes with great success, sometimes without success."
Once again, Todt was asked if Michael was the greatest driver in Formula One history. "I don't have any element to be able to say that. How could I allow myself to say whether he's better than Fangio or Clark? He is definitely among the best drivers in the history of motor racing, but to compare things, you must compare them at the same time."
"His period is definitely over. I say that with all the respect, the credit and the admiration I have for Michael. Formula One, fortunately, has become so much safer compared to what it was 15, 20, 30, 40 years ago and it is a great tribute to those who have allowed that, and to the past Formula One drivers."
And so, as Jean Todt explained, one era ends and another one begins.