As Michael Schumacher celebrated his tenth win out of 11 Grands Prix in 2004, Ferrari team principal Jean Todt once again paid tribute to the man and his equipment. "We have often spoken of Michael's extraordinary talent," said Todt after his...
As Michael Schumacher celebrated his tenth win out of 11 Grands Prix in 2004, Ferrari team principal Jean Todt once again paid tribute to the man and his equipment. "We have often spoken of Michael's extraordinary talent," said Todt after his narrow win over Kimi Raikkonen at Silverstone. "Today (Sunday) he won his 80th Grand Prix, so that's something historic.
"We know very well that while Formula One is a mechanical sport, and we know that without the many parameters that allow even the best driver in the world to take advantage of his mechanical assets, these kind of things wouldn't be possible. So today it was Michael's tenth win out of 11 races but benefiting from an extraordinary ensemble of equipment and Bridgestone tyres."
"We chose a two stop strategy for Michael and a three stop for Rubens and 15 laps before the end of the race, Michael had already refuelled which was not the case with those cars which were on three stops. But the appearance of the safety car on the track meant that Michael's advantage was cancelled out. That meant that the race virtually restarted from zero and became a second Grand Prix which was run over 15 laps where it was important that Michael wasn't overtaken by Raikkonen who had newer tyres than his. So there were one or two lively laps until Michael could pull away thanks to the better durability of his Bridgestone tyres."
Yet in eight days, Michael Schumacher had won two different Grands Prix, once by making one more stop than his rivals, the second by making one less. Jean Todt explained that "it's quite simply a demonstration that the team knows how to imagine different scenarios from one circuit to another, because here we are in England with a 60 lap race with a particular grid, special weather conditions in comparison to the race at Magny Cours which was 70 laps, with much higher temperatures. So one has to adapt to different circumstances, like our other rivals."
How is it, Todt was asked, that Ferrari's engineers keep coming up with these extraordinary strategies? "I think we just have very good people, thinking very carefully with the information available to them, to be able to chose these strategies. We know the strength of our car, the tyres and that allows us to decide our strategy and fortunately, very often it works well but sometimes it might not work well. It has happened already. We are not geniuses, we just try to do a good job."
Todt also paid tribute to the work of the FIA and the teams in improving safety, which allowed Jarno Trulli to step from his wrecked car after a spectacular high speed accident. "I think that it's perhaps important to dwell on that incident and of course, the extraordinary progress that has been made by the FIA, by Max Mosley (its president), and obviously with the assistance of the teams who are participating in the Formula One World Championship. We often see extremely spectacular accidents in Formula One and thanks to all their progress, fortunately they are often without serious consequences, which is something remarkable."
Trulli's accident was the third high speed accident in four races, however, so did Todt think that something had to be done, and perhaps soon? "You know, we've had other accidents in private testing, that's part of motor racing. But saying that, the tendency is to over-react. If something has to be done, it will probably be done, we have to be very careful of what we do and how to do it."
Similarly, Todt didn't feel that something had to be done about qualifying, even though threatening weather made pre-qualifying into a session that Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone called mad and stupid. "We are talking about the first lap of qualifying, which is in no way the final qualifying time which forms the starting grid and is the thing that matters.
"I think we would have been crazy, guessing that there could be some rain, trying to do the quickest time and then qualifying in wet conditions. If we all want to change qualifying, we will change it. The way we discussed it and agreed on it, we feel that it is not a matter of emergency. So it's very childish."
Finally, Todt talked of Giancarlo Fisichella's fine sixth place with the Ferrari-built Petronas engined Sauber from the back of the grid. "It's a logical result; good tyres, consistent tyres, he could drive 23 laps before his first pit stop so it was probably the best strategy. He didn't have to bother about the starting order because he knew he was starting at the back and it's already happened like that before, for many competitors who have started at the back of the grid.
We have to invent specific strategies because we do qualifying with fuel to start the race so we have to compromise and of course, it's not the best strategy but it's done in order to have a good position on the grid. If you don't have this parameter, of course it's different."