Grand Prix of Japan Suzuka Drivers: "Thursday Four" press conference -- David Coulthard (McLaren), Mika Hakkinen (McLaren), Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Q. Mika, to what extent can you treat a...
Grand Prix of Japan Suzuka
Q. Mika, to what extent can you treat a championship-deciding race as a normal GP weekend?
MH: Coming here, that is the intention we have set for ourselves. But obviously it is not a normal race. Whatever experience I have gained during my career in Formula 1, this is completely different. I am finding it very challenging. I wouldn't say it is easy, but then none of the GPs in which I have competed this year has been easy. I am looking forward to it and I am really happy to be here.
Q. You say you want to win, but you have also said that it is not necessary to become champion. Have you made up your mind yet about what you really want from this race?
MH: It certainly depends on how Sunday's race develops. It's unrealistic for me to sit here and say whether I am going to be second, third, first or whatever. That decision is for Sunday.
Q. Michael, last year we saw how much help you could get from your team mate. What are you expecting from Eddie on Sunday?
MS: Basically, for him to do as good a job as he has already done at several races this year, and also during testing. That's not too much to ask, because he can do a lot of things himself and he knows how to race. He also wants to do as well as he can for himself.
Q. David, what is your plan to help Mika?
DC: It all depends on the situation in the race. Clearly everyone will be out to do his best in qualifying. But one thing is sure about Sunday: it is going to be a hard, close race between McLaren and Ferrari. I think our McLaren will be good round this circuit, and maybe it will all depend on differences between the tyres.
Q. Eddie, to what extent can you help Michael?
EI: That depends on where we each qualify, and where the McLarens qualify. Even though we'll know all that on Saturday night, it could all change at the first corner. Last year Michael and I were very lucky the way things worked out. With him going slow, I was able to go round the outside of him, and that put things into our hands. That's doesn't mean to say it will happen like that again. This time, if the McLarens are one second a lap quicker and start from the front row of the grid, there won't be much that Michael and I can do about it. We have to suss it as it happens.
Q. Your emotions before the last race?
MS: As of yet I don't feel it. The tension is not really there yet, maybe it will change on Sunday. But it's pretty relaxed.
Q. Mika, what are your feelings?
MH: I'm actually quite surprised how relaxed I am. For me it is all new to be in the situation that I am. You just have to be very relaxed in your mind and very focused in your work. There is no point in starting to think about the situation too much, otherwise you will get nervous. You just have to concentrate on your driving and your work with the team, and that's it. Maybe, like Michael said, the tension goes up on Sunday. Not yet.
Q. Michael, what have you been doing in the last five weeks apart from testing? Have you been able to clear your mind of the championship?
MS: I don't feel it's necessary to do anything special for the situation except what we have done: going testing, doing your normal training programme and leaving enough time to balance yourself, which I usually do at home with my family. I played some football.
Q. Eddie and David, where from a sporting view do you draw the line in helping your teammate?
DC: It's very difficult to try and give an answer to the question because you don't know the situation [will be]. Every racing incident is different. Everyone is going to have a different opinion ...
MS: Are we going to have racing incidents?
DC: ... and therefore whether you drive somebody off the road is always going to be down to a matter of opinion. From my side I have certainly said in the past that I believe very much in what is the racing line. I also have my opinion on certain things which other drivers will disagree on. But I'm not here to break the rules as I read and understand them to help Mika win the championship. I have never done that for my own championships in the past, so I don't see why I should do it for someone else's. Equally, I won't make it as easy as Eddie did for Mika did to overtake at the Nurburgring, if that was the situation. I would have put up a lot more of a fight than he did there, because it would have benefited his teammate.
EI: I agree. If Mika is trying to overtake me, he's got to be more careful than if he is overtaking somebody else, because I have nothing to lose. So I can afford to take a bit more of a chance. It's the same for Michael with DC. The guy who is fighting for the championship has a bit more to lose than the guy who is not fighting for the championship. I wouldn't want to take Mika off -- or anybody else off for that matter -- so that Michael could win the championship because I wouldn't want somebody to do it to me. That's how you have to judge it.