French GP winners' press conference

1. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:38:05.538 2. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), +14.78 3. Rubens Barrichello (FERRARI), +32.409 Q. David, you seemed so smooth, so aggressive, so fast today: was there ever a moment in today's race when...

1. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:38:05.538
2. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), +14.78
3. Rubens Barrichello (FERRARI), +32.409

Q. David, you seemed so smooth, so aggressive, so fast today: was there ever a moment in today's race when you thought you were not going to win?

David Coulthard: Yes, just after the start when I dropped down to 3rd place. It's one thing believing you have a quick car but quite another thing to find a way past. Initially I had quite a lot of understeer, and Rubens was actually quicker, but once my car had settled down I was able to play to the strengths that I had. I was very good under brakes and we ran quite low wing, to be quick at the end of the straight and to give me the opportunity to get on the inside. From there, I always knew I had the chance to overtake and it was just a question of weighing up the risk. I have to say that, in the end, both Rubens and Michael were very fair. Hard, but fair. And it was a good race.

Q. You seemed a little unhappy at the hairpin when your first attempt to pass Michael failed to come off ...

DC: I have to apologise for my hand gestures, which were not at all in keeping with the sport. But as you can understand, my emotions were running high. I knew that I needed to win here today in order to be in a position to battle for the championship. That is what I am trying to get done and I felt that I had a clean run on Michael on the outside. Equally, I felt that he drove me wide. Now you might say that he had a right to do that because he had the track position. But it made me very angry [to see he was prepared] to drive someone wide on a line which he would not normally take. That is why I made the unsporting gesture. Ultimately I was able to able to get [past him] on the inside, and although I expected him to close the door again, he realised I was far enough alongside.

Q. Did you change your strategy during the race?

DC: We had flexibility and we did adjust it slightly, to try and read where we were with traffic and how the car was running. We had an idea what the pace would be, both before and after the pit stop, and we made an adjustment for the balance. The car was much better after the stop. Now I want to say to all my mechanics and engineers, including everyone on the pit wall, that this race was as much about their hard work as it was about making the manoeuvre. It was a great effort by the team.

Q. After all the problems you had in the past two days you must be feeling that this has been a bizarre weekend ...

DC: It's certainly been an exhausting weekend. When you want to win races it is very difficult not to care about problems like we had, because every one of them takes a little bit out of you. That is my excuse for reacting in the way I did when Michael tried to run me off the circuit.

Q. What did you think of Michael's start?

DC: The rules allow us to make one change of position [approaching or leaving a corner], so he was within the rules. But once again I had to lift, then weave to one side, because a car was veering across the front of mine. Those are the rules - and I can do the same if I ever make a good start. Today I think my start was better than Michael's, but it's a very short run to the first corner - and once he cut across, I had to lift. Then because Rubens had also made a good start he was able to use that momentum to go round the outside of me. But there I didn't try to run Rubens off the circuit. I gave him the room that I thought he deserved to have, we battled it through the corner - and he won it. That's how it should be, it should be done in a sporting way, not in a 'you lift, otherwise you will crash' sort of way.

Q. What about the two passing moves on the Ferraris?

DC: I had good top end speed from the engine, and the car was very good under brakes. That is what I was working on in the test here last week, because it is always possible to overtake there [at the hairpin] due to the tightness of the corner. And although at first I struggled to get close to Rubens through the long Turn 3, later I was able to get a run at him and put my car to the inside. Rubens was very fair, he ran a bit wide and I pulled away on the exit.

Q. In your second attempt at passing Michael - the one that succeeded - it appeared that your wheels may have touched ...

DC: Yes, we did touch a little bit on the exit of the corner, because he doesn't move. We didn't touch at my first attempt because I moved. I won the race and I am delighted about that. I just don't think that Michael is sporting in the way he drives on the track. I know there will be those among you who say that there is an element of sour grapes [in my remarks], and that [Michael's method] is the way a driver has to win these days. But there are set rules [governing] the way you drive on the track, and to try to drive an opponent off the road is not within those rules. So ... I am delighted we have won this race today, I am delighted that I have won and that the team has taken first and second places, because I believe that under the circumstances we do it in a more sporting way. So we deserve it more.

Q. Mika, you say that McLaren had the fastest cars out there. Do you think you could have passed Michael even if he had not had his problem?

Mika Hakkinen: Yes, I think so. I was watching his lines all the time and waiting for him to make a mistake. I was also waiting for us to catch some back markers, which would have given me some opportunities. I definitely would have tried to pass him at some point.

Q. Was it a surprise to be back in fourth place after the start?

MH: Yes! I have to admit that everything went well and I had a very good start. But you can only fit two cars across the road at the first corner and there were already two cars there [when I arrived], so I didn't want to put my nose in there. It was interesting to be following these guys and running fourth in the race, but there was nothing to do except to follow them and get the best out of the situation.

Q. Are you confident now about being able to beat the Ferraris, if not your own team mate?

MH: I am very confident, and very happy about the result today. This is a really fantastic day for the team, for David and for me. Everyone has done some fabulous work in getting over the unbelievable difficulties we have experienced this weekend. You probably don't know everything that's been going on, but there has been a lot of work for them. Winning is a big plus for them.

Q. Rubens, you got ahead of David at the start but seemed to drop away quite quickly from Michael. Did you have a problem with your car?

Rubens Barrichello: No, none at all. I was just settling into the race and making it a little bit easier for Michael. At the beginning I thought I could handle David quite well, but after ten or 15 lap the tyres were starting to give up a little bit and I could see that his car was quite fast on the straight. It was quite difficult for me because he was putting me under a lot of pressure in the braking and I was in difficulties there. Then he overtook me on the exit of the corner.

Q. You had two slow pit stops today. Can you tell us about those?

RB: The first one was just slow, while the second one gave us a problem with the right front wheel. That dropped me back 10 seconds [from the McLarens. I heard that Mika also had a so-so pitstop, which would have allowed me to get past him [if my stops had not gone wrong]. Today we were not the happiest team when it came to making quick stops.

Q. Were you instructed to slow down in the closing laps?

RB: Yes, my crew told me that Michael had had a failure on his engine, and because I had an advantage of 35 seconds over Jacques, they told me to back off.

Q. David, you claim that what happened between you and Michael Schumacher was not sporting. If that is true, isn't there something that you can do to seek a solution, perhaps by raising the subject in a driver briefing? Surely something needs to be said?

DC: This subject was raised after Imola, and it was put to us all that we are allowed to make one change of direction on the track, whether it be at the start or even when another driver is following closely. With that in mind, then what happened at the start was in the rules. But I think [the rule] should be taken further, to consider whether it is fair [for an overtaken driver] to change direction when the driver alongside him is forced to take avoiding action. I doubt whether it would be deemed to be fair if a driver did something similar while driving close to someone at the end of the straight. The subject needs to be discussed, and it cannot be sanitised to the extent that it would remove the essential element of dicing. I am not asking for that, but a driver must be able to trust the people against whom he is racing because he is risking his life, ultimately. I want to win badly, and it will come to the point where the only option for someone to learn will be [for him] not to lift. Then there will be a [collision] - and what happens will be in the hands of the gods.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren