GRAND PRIX OF JAPAN Sunday 31 October 1999 Post-race press conference (TV-unilaterals) 1. Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1:31:18.785 2. Michael Schumacher Ferrari +5.015 3. Eddie Irvine Ferrari ...
GRAND PRIX OF JAPAN Sunday 31 October 1999
Post-race press conference (TV-unilaterals)
1. Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1:31:18.785 2. Michael Schumacher Ferrari +5.015 3. Eddie Irvine Ferrari +1:35.688
Q. Mika Hakkinen, many congratulations on becoming world champion again. It has been said that world championships are won over the course of 16 races, but today you made sure of this one by beating Michael Schumacher away from the start. Please talk us through those moments...
Mika Hakkinen: The start is always difficult here at Suzuka because it's downhill. I knew I could do well and I was very confident. When the lights changed I immediately realised I had an advantage over Michael, and at the moment when we shifted into second gear I was already one car's length in the lead. At that point I knew that all I had to do was to keep that position. All the way through the race I didn't have any particular problems and I was able to build up the gap on Michael all the time, if I wanted to. Obviously the backmarkers would cause problems at some point, and sometimes I would lose half a second passing them. (pauses) Aye-yi-aye ... brilliant!
Q. Is the feeling of winning this championship better than the first?
MH: It's obviously different: the first time is the first time, and yes, it is a different feeling [to have done it again]. This has been a very difficult year, all the way through from the start of the season when we weren't able to finish races and we lost a lot of points. Everyone knows those problems we had. To have won the championship in the last GP is nerve-cracking. It's an experience that I can't recommend to anyone! I have now experienced it with Michael last year and again with Eddie this year. I hope that's enough for a day ...
Q. Michael, congratulations on your fighting second place and on helping Ferrari to achieve its first constructors' title since 1983. However, you lost any chance of an outright victory at the start. What happened there?
Michael Schumacher: I am not sure yet exactly what happened. I had a problem when I went off the grid, at the green light [on the parade lap], and I had a similar problem during the race start. Things weren't working normally and I don't want to go into any detail here, but obviously we will have to analyse what was going on. Despite that I went into wheelspin and made a mess of it while Mika just got a very good start, without making a mistake. We are going to have to work hard to get on to their [McLaren's] level. Things are obviously going very consistently for them and that's something on which we have to improve.
Q. You appeared to have been held up by David Coulthard and you were clearly annoyed with him when you went past him. Was that so?
MS: Yes. Mika is definitely a great champion. Today he won the championship by winning the race, and there is no reason why he should not celebrate that 100 per cent. But his team should be asked why they expect the drivers to do things like they did today. It was a different thing [between me and Mika] in Malaysia, where I was actually racing for position and had not been lapped. [In that position] you can play tactics. But if you have been lapped, you should give space. David had passed many blue flags, and he had some kind of problem, but he was really driving zig-zagging. Actually I am not sure now whether I should believe [that what happened] at Spa [last year] wasn't done purposely, the way he behaved today. I didn't expect such a thing from him when it was clear he was out of [contention for] the race and had been lapped. I am very disappointed to see such a manoeuvre that nobody would expect such a guy to have done, because I was really challenging Mika. I had had a difficult first part of the race, we obviously had more fuel on board and the handling wasn't perfect. We had adapted everything and I had started catching Mika -- I was down to within six seconds of him -- and it would have been a very close race towards the end, but that situation cost me, I think, about 10 seconds. So I am very disappointed about that.
Q. Eddie, you will be despondent about not having emerged as World Champion. However, after the various problems in practice and your accident in qualifying it was perhaps the best you could have expected today ...
Eddie Irvine: Yes, for sure. Qualifying didn't go the way we expected because I had been fairly confident I could do reasonably well in Japan. In qualifying I thought maybe I would get DC, but then on that quick lap I lost the rear end [and crashed], which gave me a sore neck for today. I was feeling it today, because it was pretty boring for me today, just driving round and wondering if anything was going to happen to Mika.
Q. You and Michael were having a happy discussion at the FIA weigh-in. What were you talking about?
EI: Well, we have won the constructors' championship, which is important. We didn't win the one that both Ferrari and I would have preferred, but at least we got the consolation prize.
Q. Mika, the only driver ever to have won three world championships back-to-back was Juan Manuel Fangio. Do you think you can achieve that in the year 2000?
MH: You never know what's going to happen next year and that's obviously a question that I can't answer with much confidence! I am going to enjoy the result we have been able to achieve here this year, so let's talk about that subject closer to next year -- well, during next year ..