French Grand Prix FIA winners' press conference transcript with 1. Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1h31m22.233s 2. Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), 1h31m34.038s 3. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1h32m44.147s Q: Fernando, a beautiful summers day, a packed...
French Grand Prix FIA winners' press conference transcript with
Q: Fernando, a beautiful summers day, a packed crowd here at the French Grand Prix, a perfect race from start to finish from pole position...
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, it was really really good. The car performed extremely well again in the race. We were very competitive from the first lap. I saw in the mirrors Jarno going back a little bit so I pushed a little bit more until the first stint and then the gap was quite nice and we controlled the race a little bit more. I think Barcelona and here at Magny-Cours, to see all the supporters, all the blue grandstands I think is an extra motivation and we did two good races, Barcelona and here, but obviously better to win.
Q: Well, you crossed the line at a fairly slow pace, I guess to acknowledge your team and then to savour that slow-down lap. Can you describe your thoughts and emotions on that slow-down lap?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, well after the last pit stop, things were already quite certain. No problems at all with the car and with Kimi, because he had stopped as well. But the last ten laps happened really really slowly, and from three or four laps to the end I was expecting this moment, waiting to cross the line and enjoying victory with the team and with the grandstands in front of the pits where most of the people coming from the Renault factory were. I really crossed the line slowly just to enjoy (the moment) with them.
Q: Is perfect the right way to describe your day?
Fernando Alonso: The whole weekend! We don't know why but we were extremely competitive this weekend. Obviously we introduced some new pieces on the car during the last test in Jerez but apart from that, I think the Renault package with Michelin was unbeatable here this weekend, so we are really really happy.
Q: Kimi, obviously starting 13th after the engine problem on Friday but a great drive on a two-stop strategy. During the first phase of the race, you were right in touch with what was effectively the second place group with that heavy fuel load.
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah. It's a bit disappointing really, what happened on Friday. It really destroyed our weekend completely, in that we wanted to win here. OK, second place is quite good for us. We only dropped two points so it didn't cost too much, but of course I want to win races and we have definitely got the speed here also. I think we stopped quite a bit later than most of the front runners, so let's say that in circumstances we did a good job but it's still disappointing to only finish second.
Q: Prior to your second stop, prior to Fernando's third stop you were twelve seconds behind him. Was there any thought that maybe things could get closer? What were your in and out laps like from your second pit stop?
Kimi Raikkonen: They were OK but there was quite a lot of traffic also and some people were racing against each other for points positions so it's not so easy to get past them. If there is one slower car they always let you past easier but when there are two guys fighting for position it takes time and it's going to cost you. We were a bit too far away but from where we started I think it was a good result for us and at least we have a good qualifying position for the next race and we're going to try to win the British Grand Prix.
Q: Michael, very strong third place, but I would guess you were held up by Jarno in the early stages but a short pit stop got you in front of him there.
Michael Schumacher: Yeah. Basically spent 18 laps behind him and losing quite a bit of time which then got me in trouble with Juan who passed me after his pit stop. Then I got stuck again behind Juan who was quick but not as quick as what we could have done at that stage, so to finish third is OK.
Q: Was third place perhaps as good as you were going to get this weekend?
Michael Schumacher: Yup, but if you see, we came in on the same lap so in terms of competition in qualifying, it was what it was, it was very close. The only exception was Kimi being up front there with quite a bit heavier a car. Then they just chose from this moment on to go to a two stop whereas we chose a three stop which obviously moved us ahead.
Q: But do you think third place was about right for you this weekend or do you think that with an easier first phase of the race maybe you could have been second?
Michael Schumacher: Well, if you look at the speed we have had, then clearly I have to say that third place was about the maximum. If our strategy would have worked perfectly we could have been in front of Kimi due to the situation he was in his race but our race didn't go perfectly, so that was the way it was.
Q: Mechanically the car looked good. We saw a bit of smoke coming from a front tyre at one point, not sure if that was a lock-up or not?
Michael Schumacher: Yeah, yeah, had a few lock-ups and had a nice moment in turn three as well, going a bit wide but otherwise it was OK.
Q: Fernando, the British Grand Prix in a week, not a lot of time to celebrate but nonetheless a landmark race for the team and indeed for your season perhaps.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, this was always good to win and especially more for the team and for our president who came for this race, especially to see Formula One so it's good news for all the team, and it's true that next week we are in Silverstone again so July will be quite tough and we start the month in a good position.
Q: Fernando, could you just give as an idea of what it was like on those opening laps, because you just seemed to disappear from the rest of the field?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, it was a little bit surprising because my start was good and then I pushed a little bit on the first lap being a little bit careful with the wind and with the track conditions, because obviously it was the first lap of the day and then I saw the car was like yesterday, OK, no problems and I pushed a little bit and I saw Jarno and Michael going quite a lot slower than me so I tried to push as hard as I could throughout the first stint until lap 20. After that, I was controlling the race a little bit and it was just like that. Everything was organised and well controlled, I think.
Q: What about the concentration, you were on your own most of the time?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, but at the same time we were lapping people constantly and I think as Kimi said before, when two guys are fighting for position, to lap them is quite difficult because the blue flags get more difficult to overtake and after that, because Kimi was on a different strategy the team was informing me of the situation and on which laps they had stopped already, so it was quite an interesting race, even if I was alone, just to see the picture of the other teams.
Q: And what about the British Grand Prix, can you do the same, give us an idea of your chances there?
Fernando Alonso: Well, I think Silverstone is not a perfect place for us, to be honest. It's one of the races we have with a red cross against it on our calendar, because the car has not really gone well in the past there so we need to find out some solutions this week and really try hard on Friday to set up the car and be competitive, if we want to be on the podium which, at the moment, I think is our maximum target for next week.
Q: Kimi, that's got to be good news for you if they're worried about it?
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah. I think Silverstone is usually good for us. We did one test there already this year and we were pretty quick, so I think we will have a good week as long as we don't have any problems with the car.
Q: What about the early laps here, they must have been fairly lively.
Kimi Raikkonen: The start itself was not exactly the best one, but then I got around quite a few people in the first few corners and I was just following people and waiting for them to start stopping and then I pushed as hard as I could, but I was too far away from Alonso already at that point so really second place was the maximum. So if you look at it in one way, it was quite disappointing because without the penalty I think we could have been in a pretty strong position. But we only dropped two points, so it's not a disaster. OK, it's not helping but we just carry on fighting. I think we have a good package so we are going to go to the next race and try to win it.
Q: Just to go back to the early laps, you even overtook Jacques Villeneuve quite easily.
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah, the car was good all the way through the race. I think I passed two cars on the back straight, braking into the hairpin, so that was quite nice, but then after that, when everything settled down after a few laps, the car became more difficult so I was not able to pass anyone any more, but then during the pit stops I got past the rest of them.
Q: Even in spite of second, the overriding emotion seems to be disappointment?
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah for sure, because with that penalty I think we could have won the race. At least we would have been in a strong position to fight for it. The positive thing is that we only dropped two points and then we are in a good position for qualifying for the next race.
Q: Michael, you had quite a lively race -- held up by Jarno and then Juan Pablo and then you had Giancarlo behind you as well...
Michael Schumacher: Yeah. It was all about, except with Jarno, being on different strategies at different times and as well, at the end, Fisichella who was behind in a light car, putting some pressure and trying to get by, but it was not really that close honestly.
Q: And the last lap, you were very slow. You almost had two slowing down laps. There wasn't a problem on the last lap was there?
Michael Schumacher: No. I mean Fernando was right behind me and there was no car between him and me so whether I would have stopped or not stopped, it wouldn't have mattered, my situation was fixed at that stage so I just took it easy.
Q: In the early stages, did you think he was on a multi-stop strategy, the way he was pulling away?
Michael Schumacher: No. I mean it was pretty clear, I was held up and anyway we knew from the lap times in free practice that they had very good pace. We were hoping to match that, but we couldn't prove and when we could prove we actually didn't match it completely.
Q: Kimi, you did a very impressive qualifying in the end, looking at how much fuel you had -- do you think at the moment that McLaren is a little bit superior to Renault?
Kimi Raikkonen: Yeah, the qualifying was good for us, but unfortunately it didn't help too much for us, but it is very difficult to say really which car is the best one. I think it depends on the circuits. I think Silverstone will be a good place for us, better than here; one where you could say that we have a slightly stronger package but it is very difficult to say really.
Q: Michael did you expect your Ferrari to be more competitive?
Michael Schumacher: I am not really able to say how competitive we have been today because I haven't watched the lap times when I was free compared to the lap times the other guys were doing. I know it wouldn't have been enough, but not by how much and what is maybe the consequence so excuse me if I am not able to make a proper conclusion yet.
Q: Fernando, after this victory and the second place of Kimi, do you think the championship is now just a fight between you and him?
Fernando Alonso: It is quite early still and there are a lot of races to go, but it is true that every race in the podium positions are the same drivers more or less so I think that Kimi and Michael will be the main opponents in this last part of the season I think.
Q: Question to Kimi, how big is your hope in the championship now?
Kimi Raikkonen: It's getting more difficult race by race, but I think we have a strong package and we just need to go to every race and do our best to try to win or at least score more points than Fernando so it is going to be difficult but we are not going to give up because a few races ago we lost 10 points but then the next race we got back 10 points so things can change very quickly here and well see what happens in the last part of the season.
Q: A question for Fernando, before the race, did you think that Kimi could finish on the podium?
Fernando Alonso: Yes I think we knew that and I think the team knew that probably they were with a different strategy with two stops so with the pace that the Renault and the McLarens showed on Friday and Saturday we knew that the podium was between the four cars and I think that Juan had a problem with his car and Giancarlo as well so I think it was quite clear that both teams were very competitive and I was expecting Kimi to be on the podium to be honest.
Q: Michael what do you think are your chances in the drivers' championship?
Michael Schumacher: I guess if you take a calculator, take the number of races, the number of points available you can give it a percentage. I am not quick enough to calculate that for you now but that is the way I see it. As long as mathematically there is an opportunity, whatever the percentage, we go for it.