POLE POSITION PRESS CONFERENCE
SAP UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX, Sept. 23, 2000
Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen
Q: Michael quite a reception you're getting out there.
MS: Yeah, yeah, truly amazing first time being here. We saw yesterday already a big crowd, unusual for Friday, and I was wondering whether people will actually be satisfied with what they saw yesterday and come again today, or whether they get bored or whatever. But we have obviously convinced the guys to come back. Obviously we put a good show in today, like David just did in the last couple of seconds, have a good fight for pole position. So it was a good day for all of us.
Q: Who would you prefer beside you on the front row of the grid, because at one point it was going to be Mika?
MS: I think there was another red car.
Q: Wasn't given that option. Out of these two who would you prefer?
MS: A red car.
Q: Okay, I won't continue. How much did you change the car during the session?
MS: Naturally a little bit. I mean, due to the rain we had this morning that we couldn't really use all the session for dry running, we were still experimenting a little bit of qualifying. So just a few little bits and pieces trying out.
Q: And from a race set-up point of view.
MS: That's pretty well prepared.
Q: And any worries about the possibility of a wet race tomorrow?
MS: Yeah, I mean, what means worries? I mean, there is the chance of having a wet weather race, so we know what to do. We just hope that we don't find too many rivers running across the circuit which could cause trouble, as we don't know the place in full wet condition yet. But maybe - or hopefully if it's going to be that, we have the chance tomorrow morning in warm-up to experience that.
Q: No suggestion of that from this morning's rain when you went out on a damp track this morning?
MS: No, that was not really wet, just a bit damp, and you can't learn from what we saw this morning.
Q: So what did you think of McLaren’s tactics now?
MS: Which tactic?
Q: The slip-streaming tactic.
MS: You must have been asleep when we did this before because we did that in our second run with Rubens and myself and then returned for our third run. Then we turned it round for him in the last run. We did it slightly different, though, so both could go for a lap time, but it worked out, at least for me.
Q: And the first corner? You mentioned it just now. Have you got any worries about that?
MS: No more than elsewhere on the track, no. It's a slowish corner, but that's usual. So it's up to us to be disciplined enough to just use the space that's available.
Q: Okay. Thanks Michael. David, could you really feel the tow with Mika this time?
DC: You do notice the difference, obviously, as we went out with the intention of doing that. I think Mika short-shifted so he wouldn't be at ultimate speed. But I don't know until the detail how much time it gives. It's a great thing. I have to thank him for doing that. I've got the rest of the 13 corners to do alone, so I'm so quite happy with my efforts, obviously, not good enough to beat Michael, but the last -- I made a big gain in that last run.
Q: Which would you prefer to be on, the dusty part of the front row or the clean part of the second row?
DC: Well, the pole is what you prefer, but I think that's -- being the dusty side is an advantage but it's all about reaction time and not getting too much wheel spin, so we just have to wait and see. I think from where I am on the grid, if you look at the starting position for pole, they have concrete blocks right in front of it, so I actually think this will be a disadvantage so from where I am. Hopefully I can get the car moving, and it's quite a drag to that first corner. I feel pretty confident I can get the jump for the start.
Q: What effects do you think the yard of brick is going to have with your acceleration off the grid?
DC: Do you listen to any of the answers?
Q: You sort of mentioned it just now, so, of course, I do.
DC: Sorry to be so harsh on you. I'm all embarrassed now because you're such a nice guy. It's not fair to pick on you. I think it will be a disadvantage to have the yard of bricks.
Q: But what does the car do?
DC: Wheel-spin hopefully.
Q: Doesn't upset the balance?
DC: No, when we drive at speed, you can feel where you position the car as to whether you're floored. The plank hits the ground a bit more. Nothing gets better closer to the middle of the track, but for the start what will happen is you will feel that you're running over a yard of bricks.
Q: Was there any dampness at the end at all?
Q: I have no idea because I was under cover.
DC: We have to talk via your lawyer next time. It wasn't at all damp at the end. It was spitting a little bit probably about ten minutes into the session and otherwise it was dry so we all had a clear run at the end.
Q: Mika, if I can come to you. As I mentioned just now, you actually helped your teammate push you off the front row in fact.
MH: Well I was not concerned about that to be honest. So I was confident that way if I helped David, he will improve definitely straight-line speed, and hopefully that will give him some momentum to improve his total lap time, and it did. But I'm not disappointed dropping one place. What David explained about starting grid situation, being second row is not too bad idea.
Q: On the cleaner side.
Q: Set-up. Did you change the car very much during the session?
MH: We did turn a bit. We have made a very good progress from yesterday, and particularly from this morning to qualifying we have made a very good progress. I'm very pleased.
Q: And first corner, from third.
MH: First corner always first corner. Always difficult. Everybody wants to be first in the first corner. And we'll see what happens. Just, you know, it's a long, long straight for the first corner. We're going to get to very high speed and luckily at front of the race if somebody realizes they're going too fast, that's a good thing. It's going to be difficult.
Q: Do you think you will be allowed to practise with the bricks here tomorrow?
Q: You've already been told no practice starts?
MS: You simply cannot. You can't go on the grid and do practice starts. You have a certain position, you do practice starts all weekend, and that's it.
Q: The width of the track for a standing start, does the inside retaining wall give you any concern? Is it narrow there or do you feel that it's sufficient for a good start?
MS: I thought it was much wider than most circuits we have in Europe, so no concern at all.
Q: Coming into the main straight off of Turn - well, coming out of 2 going into 1, what was your reaction the first time you saw the wall on your left and the grandstand, your perception of speed and feel of the track? Anybody can answer.
MS: Are you talking of the last two corners, not 1 and 2 for us, it's 12 and 13. And, obviously, it's a good feeling to run through this banking. But our cars are basically too slow out of 11, so that we experience really a maximum situation and a sort of limit through the banking. That's very easy for us. It might be different tomorrow in the rain. We have to find out. But you could imagine if you would go much faster how much the banking could help and may satisfy you, but on the other side you have the wall right next to you. I'd rather don't go faster through that. You know we Europeans are a bit more chicken than Americans probably.
Q: I wasn't implying that.
MS: We use big run-off areas.
Q: It's a different perspective: going higher speed it might be different. But you are right about coming out of the infield you're not at maximum velocity yet.
MS: No, we are at maximum, but the corner is so slow that we simply don't achieve more speed than we do. That means we're far below the limit.
Q: Michael, this track, of course, is new for Formula One, and the track in Malaysia is almost new for Formula One. Can you compare those or see any similarities between these two tracks?
MS: No, not at all. Very different, the two circuits. I mean, I wouldn't even be able to characterize this circuit compared to any other circuit. Fairly special. I like it, honestly. But it's not comparable.
Q: Michael, how far has the point advanced when you have to hit the rev limiter at the entry of the pits?
Q: Speed limit?
MS: What's the question?
Q: How much was it advanced?
MS: From yesterday?
MS: About 20 meters. And that's rather tight.
Q: Michael, just to make sure we have everybody's opinion about the start at the yard of bricks and what Mika and David have said, do you have any concerns about losing traction or anything from the pole on the patch of bricks?
MS: I don't actually know where's the first position concerning to the yard of bricks. I will have to find out if this could be a concern then. It shouldn't be because the leader of pole position shouldn't take any disadvantage from that. So we want to make sure that it's not the case.
Q: Michael, you showed some concern about the pit entry yesterday. Are you still concerned about that?
Q: Was it shared by other people, other drivers?
MS: Sitting right next to me, ask them.
DC: Yeah, it's quite a tricky entry because you're at such high speed in a narrow part of the pit lane and then yesterday the first thing you saw was the end of the pit lane. Obviously, if you made a mistake, you go straight into that. I think that's why it was brought back a little bit earlier, plus we’ve got some marker boards on the inside to help us.
Q: Is that so, Mika?
MH: Particularly if it is wet. You’re going to drive as fast as possible around the track and to come into pits. If you make a mistake or you go too fast, well, that means you're going to spin off and you go across the grass and back to the main track. So not very nice.
Q: Now that you've had a chance to get several sessions under your belt, any driver, what is your perception of this track in the event tomorrow as far as passing either competitively or for lap traffic?
MS: I mean, you have a very long straight, but though you have a medium-fast corner Turn 11, which doesn't allow you to be very close to the man in front even though you might be faster. That means that I don't think the straight actually will be long enough to make up until the end of the straight, so you will most likely see similarities to Europe, I mean, where passing will still be difficult, and you have to rely on pit stop strategies and on driving abilities.
Q: You've now had chance to drive a little bit around the track. If you could tell the clerk of the course one place where you would like things improved for next year, as far as the track layout is concerned, what would it be?
MH: The pit entrance is definitely one. The pit entrance is definitely something where it should be done.
DC: I think that as Michael mentioned the track is very unique in the way it doesn't compare to any tracks back home, so there are no real areas of the track that I would like to change. I'm sure you know we're always pitching for safety so we might want to try to adjust some barriers here and there, but the main thing really would be just be nice to have some toilets in the garage because it's a long walk.
MS: I can confirm this here.
Q: Question for David. You know, I believe on your next-to-last run you ran wide going onto the infield straight and ran over the curb. I saw you looking at the replay on TV. Could you perhaps describe what happened and was there any damage done to your car?
DC: No, one of the advantages of having the plank is that it is quite hard and solid so providing you run over something like that which is plastic I think it is made out of, it doesn't damage the car but obviously you lose time. I got on the power too early and got some oversteer and tried to get away with it, didn't manage it. So it was quite straightforward.
Q: If the first two days are any indication Formula One has been welcomed rather warmly back to the United States by the fans out there, has the level of enthusiasm that they've showed today kind of surprised you a little bit?
MS: Yeah. I mean, I mentioned that in the press conference before. That we are -- or I'm quite surprised because I've been a couple times in the States, I've never been known. I mean, I can go really freely around and I was thinking that Americans are not really interested in Formula One. But today I have to change my mind because I mean they seem to be very enthusiastic about Formula One, and that's great to see coming here the first time since ten years.
Q: This is amazing (rest of question inaudible).
MH: I fully agree. This is amazing. A lot of people and great atmosphere today. Everybody is cheering everybody and really fantastic.
DC: I agree, as well. It is similar to Monza, the whole crowd cheering. The only difference is there they are cheering for Ferrari. Here they seem passionate to any car that goes out there. I suppose Minardi has never been so loved.
Q: Michael, you said you like the course. Do you think that this course has the potential for becoming one of the iconic types of courses on the circuit or just becoming another of the many circuits along the way?
MS: I mean honestly each one is iconic, each one is different. In terms of what is maybe in priority or what is most loved, most challenging for a driver, to me it’s always been Spa, it hasn't changed after coming here, but still it's a great track.
Q: Can any of you describe for us in America who don't see this type of start, how frantic it is in those - we see these pictures of cars darting in and out right at the start, what it's like at that start for the first 20 seconds down to the first turn?
MS: Basically, if everybody comes off well, then you won't see really that much moving as you described. It's probably similar to Indy if somebody is sleeping, not doing a good start, you see many passing maneuvers. So with us, if we miss the start, if we get too much wheel-spin or slow off the line, then you will have different speed with different cars down the straight and many overtaking, which is rather, say, difficult to handle because you have to watch front, you have to watch rearward, and that's not an easy thing but then we are supposed to be the 22 best drivers around so we should handle it.
Q: Are you happy with the balance in your car (inaudible)?
DC: Definitely be trying some changes to the car from the warm-up. Obviously, when you put all the fuel on board it's going to react in a different way. We have a bit of experience of that from the first day's practice. But the track changes as the rubber goes down so you keep adjusting the car. So we will be making some changes.
Q: Do you feel you can get more straight-line speed out of it?
MH: Yeah, definitely.
Q: I appreciate all the drivers have said they want to put on a good show here for the American race fans, but I'm wondering since American race fans are used to wheel-to-wheel racing and constant lead changes that they see in NASCAR, CART, and IRL, when you're talking about a good show, are you talking about the first guy to the first corner wins the race two hours later, or is a good show to you lots of wheel-to-wheel racing and changes for the lead?
MS: To us it's probably very similar to what it is to everybody because we love overtaking. If you come somehow from the back, you overtake your way through up to the front, that's what I would call a very good show. But then it does happen only so often and in your races in America it doesn't happen all the time either, it happens from time to time if circumstances are right. We have to find out what happens tomorrow. Let's see.