A few days after new year and his thirty-sixth birthday, the seven time Formula 1 world champion reflected on the recently concluded 2004 season. For the German driver and Ferrari it was a year of unbridled success. Q: How would Schumacher ...
A few days after new year and his thirty-sixth birthday, the seven time Formula 1 world champion reflected on the recently concluded 2004 season. For the German driver and Ferrari it was a year of unbridled success.
Q: How would Schumacher describe last season?
Michael Schumacher: It was definitely a fabulous season, not just because we were so successful, but also because of the atmosphere within our team, which is incredibly good. But describing everything that happened last season is not easy for me. Maybe that's because I'm someone who generally always tends to look ahead. I'm basically focussing on the next season and not thinking about having won the World Championship anymore.
Q: Nevertheless you surely have lots of nice memories...
MS: Of course, and I'm glad I do. Budapest was great, because we won the constructor's title there. Looking back, Spa was great also, because after all I won the title there. Just after the race I had mixed feelings, because I had become World Champion without actually winning the race. I'm over that now. Monza was beautiful too, a one-two win in front of the tifosi -- and it wasn't looking to be happening at first. The podium there leaves you breathless, because it feels like you're standing in the middle of the crowd.
Q: But those weren't all your fond memories?
MS: No, luckily enough, there were quite a few special moments this year. Another one was the podium in Japan. Standing up there with Ralf is always very special, but this time it was even more so. He drove a great race and I was really happy for him for having a come-back like that.
Q: Which takes us to the less pleasant moments of last year...
MS: Ralf's accident in Indianapolis was quite a shock for me, that's true. But as I've said often: because I was supplied with all information straight away, I was able to carry on driving. And today the accident is history. The most important thing was that Ralf suffered no permanent injuries. Another dark moment for us as a team was Umberto Agnelli's death.
Q: How the team feels is very important to you, right?
MS: Yes, absolutely. I'm a part of it after all, no more and no less. And I can only repeat time and time again: Formula One is a team's sport. You don't stand a chance without a good team. It's about everyone working together, not a one-man show. The people at Maranello give us a solid foundation to work with when we're at the race track. And each and every one of them puts so much passion and effort into their work, that's truly unique -- it's not a coincidence that we went for more than fifty races this year without having to retire due to technical failure. It shows how much effort is made and it shows Ferrari's heart. The victories and titles belong to every single one of them.
Q: Next year will be your 15th Formula One season. You have just turned 36. Are you not starting to feel worn out?
MS: Let's put it like this: of course I have the odd small ache or pain every now and then, but they are only small ones. All in all I feel very, very fit and to be perfectly honest: much younger than 36. I play soccer with my colleagues quite often, with people like Fernando Alonso, who is ten years younger than I am, and I don't see much of a difference. No, I am not getting worn out, and especially not psychologically. I still enjoy what I do immensely.
Q: You have achieved so much, but that sounds as if you're going to go for it again in 2005.
MS: You bet! I'm starting off the new season just like all the others before: with a hunger, fully motivated and looking forward to the fights that lay ahead. Like I said, I have fun, I love my sport and I love being challenged. The things I've achieved so far have nothing to do with it. That doesn't count in sports anyway. In sports, you can't rest on your past victories, you have to take on the challenge again and again. It's always all about the next race.
Q: Do the new rules that apply starting from 2005 make it even more challenging?
MS: Yes, because that is what the Formula One is all about: nothing ever stands still, you have to keep on developing new things. We'll all have to get used to the changes next year. I already got a little taste of it when I drove the last test at Jerez with the configurations for 2005 -- it all seemed extremely slow in the beginning. It will be a different Formula One, and everyone will have to adjust to it. Right now, I would say that the cars will be two, or more likely, three seconds slower per lap. So it will be different, but it will also be interesting.
Q: But can a racing driver like the fact that the cars are being slowed down?
MS: I was a bit sceptical at first, but in Brazil I realized that it has to happen. The cars are so fast that the forces you are dealing with are much stronger than in the last few years. I saw a lot of my colleagues in Brazil who had trouble holding their heads up straight after the race, and I was having trouble, too.
Q: Couldn't the reason for that be that the track in Brazil, unlike most others, is driven counter-clockwise?
MS: There have been problems due to this, true, but that was when the race took place at the start of the season. This time, it was the season's last race, and by then the neck muscles shouldn't be causing any problems because they have been trained throughout the whole season.
Q: And now something completely different. Together with your friend Peter Kaiser you have gotten involved in karting again. The two of you are board members of the FIA's newly founded committee which aims to reduce the sport's costs. Why did you decide to be a part of this?
MS: For a simple reason: the sport of karting is meant to be affordable for a large group of kids. The more kids know how much fun this sport is, the better -- for them and for the sport. Karting is a good solid background for any kind of motor sports, but if it is made accessible only to a select few, that's no help to anyone. At the moment, karting is unfortunately going in a direction of being a very select and expensive sport, and we want to change that.