Japanese GP Saturday press conference

1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1:32.484 2. Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams), 1:33.184 3. Ralf Schumacher (Williams), 1:33.297 Q: Your sixth pole here, your eleventh of the year, 3.4s quicker than last year, was that a perfect lap. Michael ...

1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1:32.484
2. Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams), 1:33.184
3. Ralf Schumacher (Williams), 1:33.297

Q: Your sixth pole here, your eleventh of the year, 3.4s quicker than last year, was that a perfect lap.

Michael SCHUMACHER: Yes, it was. We are so far up front to the rest of them that we have maximised our opportunities and we did, we worked very consistently the whole weekend and things have worked in the end. You can see that as well with my team-mate; he's in a very good pace. As usual, we expected to be fast here and we are.

Q: You went faster each time; was that you improving or the car improving or the track improving?

MS: You naturally improve yourself a bit but we did certain changes which just improved the handling a bit in the end.

Q: Juan, have you been surprised at how quick the Ferrari has been?

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: I'm surprised at how quick they could flow through the first sector. All the time I was as quick as him in the second sector and I was quicker than him in the third one so everything was in the first sector. I think for my first time here it is not that bad. It seems experience around this place really helps a lot.

Q: It was noticeable that between your second and third runs - your third being the fastest - you seemed to have changed emphasis. You were quicker in the first sector, slightly slower in the second sector. Was that a change in yourself, or a change in the car set-up?

JPM: As soon as I ran so quick in the first sector, I picked up about seven tenths, I thought I didn't want to throw it away so I eased back a couple of tenths in the second sector.

Q: Ralf you got in there with a good third place at the end. Is that the best which you could achieve today?

Ralf SCHUMACHER: It looked like it. We tried very hard, all my laps were very good, I always improved whenever I went out. We had a few problems yesterday so we couldn't do a lot in the second session beside just put new tyres on, so we had to work quite hard to get the car right and I think it's a good car for the race.

Q: It's noticeable that you did a lot of work scrubbing in the Michelin. Is that a worry? Do you need to get them well run in?

RS: There are certain ways of using our tyre and we decided to scrub them for the race whereas other people didn't like that. We will see tomorrow.

Q: Michael, if you win tomorrow, you will become the all-time points leader in Formula One but conversely, if you see Rubens coming up behind you and he's got a chance of getting second in the championship with a win, will you let him through?

MS: That's more important than the points because I guess I will score some more points next year.

Q: Michael seven tenths of a second is a pretty amazing margin; are you surprised by it?

Michael SCHUMACHER: Yes. Our prediction was to do a different lap time, quite a bit slower than what we actually did and obviously it makes you happy to see that you've beaten the predictions.

Q: The car looked amazing, particularly in the changes of direction, in the Esses, did it feel that way?

MS: It must be very good obviously, doing the lap times and doing the gap to the other cars. There was must be somewhere something better than all the others have, no doubt. It feels pretty nice to drive it because the speed we're doing right now through the Esses is a big challenge. In the past we used to slide around, you didn't have the grip. Bridgestone has obviously produced a great tyre for here to give us the opportunity. Part of the aim was to beat the previous pole position time from Berger, I think, some years ago, and I think we did that by far.

Q: From a physical point of view, are the changes of direction and the G-forces greater than at any other circuit?

MS: Probably, it's one of the tougher circuits, because for a whole race distance to go the speed we do right now is difficult, but there are some other circuits which are difficult too, like Barcelona and so on, which have a lot of high G-force corners.

Q: Were you using the new chassis today? Did that contribute to the performance?

MS: Yes. I don't think it is possibly to verify in lap times what we have done. It has different meanings why we have changed the chassis. It's simply to improve our way of doing our job for next year rather than to do a lap time improvement in itself.

Q: Juan Pablo, your first time here, what do you think of it?

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: Yeah, I like it a lot. Yesterday on high fuel the car felt really good. This morning it was quite good but then we got lost a little bit. In the first two runs in qualifying we were OK, then on the third one I really picked up the pace through the pace especially through the Esses. It was place where you gotta flow, but my car didn't have such stability as Michael's and I think that was all the time difference. He can change direction and have the support, so that makes it really hard, but I think second and third for Williams here is pretty good.

Q: Can you be as strong in the race?

JPM: Hopefully. Yesterday we were really quick so it would be a very good thing.

Q: Ralf, are you surprised by Michelin's first time performance here?

Ralf SCHUMACHER: There were many circuits where they've been for the first time this year and we were always relatively strong in qualifying so I'm not really surprised by that, no.

Q: What about your own performance; the first and third sectors seemed to be better than the middle sector on your quick lap. Did something go wrong in the middle sector?

RS: Not really. I was lucky to get a clear lap anyway with all the confusion Jos and David had. I took the benefit just before I went into the lap out of it and improved again by one and a half tenths. Here on this circuit it's marginal. Our car obviously doesn't seem to be as strong through the first sector as the Ferrari is. If you look at it, you see it visually as well where we lose time and that's what we have to work on. Here in Suzuka, if you're not getting it 100 per cent right in all three sectors you obviously lose out in some. I think it was very close in between us today and I think it's a good position for the team and we'll see how it is tomorrow.

Q: But Juan Pablo was 0.7s of a second behind your brother, can you challenge the Ferrari tomorrow?

RS: Doesn't look like it does it? To be realistic, no. They are so strong, they were playing games the whole weekend basically. He didn't even need to go out on new tyres this morning, he stayed on one set and they knew what they were able to do. I think it's going to be a difficult race for us.

Q: Michael, in compromising the set-up for the car, did you deliberately give something away to be quicker in the first sector?

MS: No, I think that it is simply within, I would say, the tyre manufacturer, honestly, because we have seen in high speed or higher speed corners, in Esses, the Bridgestone is working very well. In braking and traction, the Michelin is working maybe a little bit better than us so if you look at the last sector, it's purely braking and traction, that's it and all the others is a lot of high speed corners.

Q: Michael, you seem to have been racing for your team-mate to come second in the championship. Are the fans really going to see the best of you tomorrow?

MS: It depends pretty much on how the race is going to develop, honestly. It's pretty obvious what is our aim, which is for Rubens to be in second position in the championship, and if we can do something for that, that's my job and if nothing can be done then my job is to race free. So it depends.

Q: Michael, can you sum up this year, particularly given the recent tragedies? I think you've had mixed emotions.

MS: Yes, certainly I had and I think that's known by you as well. The point is that we've had a great season up to Spa, I would say. In particularly we were competitive for 99 per cent. We had two failures, one in Imola, one in Hockenheim which I think is a very good number if you look over a whole season. We're pretty pleased with the reliability point of view, and from a performance point of view we are obviously even more pleased, because what we have done this year is pretty outstanding if you simply look at the number of points we have against the second placed driver. It's something which obviously makes us happy and look forward to the future which should even a better one. But then obviously the last two races, Monza and the United States, were under a different kind of star and that's the way it is, and everyone handles that differently, obviously.

Q: Juan Pablo, do you wish to finish a battle against Michael for once, because you haven't been so lucky with your car this year?

JPM: I think I've been very unlucky. I've lost a lot of points. A couple of races I should have won. At Indy when I passed Michael I had the better of him and at the point, I think we could have won that race. I pulled out about three seconds in two laps and I thought that was enough that when I came out of the pits I would be ahead of him. I was quick enough to be ahead... I thought the fight would be with Mika at the time. It's been a tough season. I've broken down about ten times, nine or ten times, and about eight of them I've been in the points. That makes it really tough. But that's racing. Hopefully tomorrow I can have a good race, I think my car for the race is pretty good. I think Michael has a big advantage having, I think, three new sets of tyres or something, two or three sets, but we will see. It seems that my tyres, when they get older, seem to work a lot better than the Bridgestones.

Q: Do you think we will often see a similar podium to this next year, not only in qualifying, but also in the races?

MS: I would think yes. I don't discount McLaren in my view, because they have the potential to be up here as well, and they have shown that at Indy. So we see a mixture of grey, blue, white and red.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams