11th April 2001 What did you feel when you passed Michael Schumacher in Brazil? JPM: Initially when I passed him I was surprised because I was a long way back when we got to the braking. I said "just give it a try" and it worked, really. It...
11th April 2001
What did you feel when you passed Michael Schumacher in Brazil?
JPM: Initially when I passed him I was surprised because I was a long way back when we got to the braking. I said "just give it a try" and it worked, really. It was good. When I passed him I thought he should be a lot quicker than me and he would try to pass me fairly. I paced myself to a decent pace but I wasn't pushing really hard. I was trying to do clean running and take care of the tyres because we were on one stint. We were going to go a long way so I didn't want to try to get in front of Michael Schumacher and kill the tyres after ten laps. After I settled in I started pushing harder to see how fast he could run and I actually started pulling away from him. I couldn't believe it. I went "wow, I am going faster!" and it was quite good actually.
After Brazil everybody says you can win a Formula 1 race, what do you think about that?
JPM: I think it is pretty good, to be honest. I can't complain. I think it was a bit of a surprise for everybody, including myself. I was expecting through the year to get better and better and definitely still think there is a lot more to come, and a lot more to learn. You can't really say at this point that you can maximize everything after three races. I still make loads of mistakes, there are still places to improve. One of the biggest things, for example, is the braking. You can say is quite good, but with these cars if you make a little mistake it costs you a lot of time and it is quite tough really.
Do you find it intimidating that people are predicting your future prospects on the basis of that one move? Have they made too much about it?
JPM: It's quite funny really, it's quite surprising. I think passing Michael Schumacher was a good move, but I think there have always been moves better than this that maybe people have never seen on TV. The pressure on me is big because I passed Michael, and what he is for the people is huge. He knows what he is doing and has a lot of experience, but I think what my move shows is that there can be some drivers capable of winning as well as beating Michael. I always push, push really hard and am not keen on giving anything away. If I have a chance of winning I am going to take it really. The speed is there but I need to learn to maximize. I think one of the things I need to learn is to qualify using the four runs. The first two races I didn't try hard enough and the third one. I tried a little too hard!
You must have felt an enormous amount of frustration when Verstappen put you out of the race and you were at the top of your game.
JPM: No, that is racing. It is the same as if there's a technical problem with the car. If this happens, I am not going to kick the car and kick everybody in the team! That is where you have got to learn to be on top of your game. I was so happy with the j job I had done that being put out of the race was disappointing, but it was another step forward for me. If I had won ten races I would be livid if that happens, I would go ballistic believe me, and going ballistic was something I .used to do in the past! At this point I am just moving forward, learning more and trying more and getting further, and further. I remember when I got out of the car I could hear the fans screaming and I lifted my hand and waved to them and they went crazy and I felt really good because I knew I had done a good job. I didn't cock it up, I didn't spoil it, I didn't do anything silly so I was very pleased with that really.
What did Frank Williams and Patrick Head say to you after Brazil?
JPM: They were pretty pleased because it was a big emotional moment for WilliamsF1, and I would include myself as part of the team's family. You know for WilliamsF1 since '97 they have not been up at the front and it was just like the team had opened the door. Being up there is not only me, it is everybody.
People say you are very quick so what do you still need to win races?
JPM: You need to get better. Being quick in a corner or two or three corners doesn't mean everything. One thing is being able to be quick, but you need to learn to be quick all the time, consistently. At the point where I am, I can be quick but I can make mistakes quite easily as well because this is a new car for me and everywhere I am going is a bit of a new track. Even when - like now - I am going to race on European tracks, some circuits are going to be still a bit new to me. In Imola, for example, I raced once. I had two qualifying sessions of 25 minutes and about five laps in the race. I am going there and at least I know where the circuit goes but nothing more than this. I think we will be all right, but the biggest thing you need to learn is to be quick and at the same time you can't overdrive the car. If you do it, you can go faster for three laps, but then you kill the tyres. There are many factors you must learn to control to be consistently on the top.
How was the welcome to Formula One? Was it a special greeting or just a start like everywhere?
JPM: It was like a start but a more serious start. F1 was always my dream but when you get into it you forget about what it is really. Apart from being a job, it is something you have got to be on all the time. You must be precise, you must give the right information and you must learn there is nothing you can give away. You learn all the time. There are a lot of things the team and myself need to improve and we have got to learn to work together if we are going to go in the right direction. The relations hip with my engineer, for example, improves at every race. We are getting closer and we understand each other more and more.
What makes your car so strong?
JPM: Everything. The people in first place. I think I have got a great bunch of mechanics and we have a great team manager. I think the team spirit is getting better and better. The chassis is very good, Michelin is doing a fantastic job as is BMW. Just e everything is there and nothing at the moment is going against us.
Have you set yourself a target?
JPM: I would not mind winning races, to be honest I don't think anyone will mind but I can't go and say "I led Brazil, all right next race in the pocket, I got it!" I can't say that. You have got to be very realistic with the job, and get on with it. You c can't think about winning until you have won. You have got to think every moment about what you are doing. If in practice somebody is going quicker than you, you think "In that sector, what am I doing wrong? What can I improve?" and then you work with it an d you always try harder and push harder and harder. I can say in Brazil I should have won that race, but I didn't because something went wrong and that's it. First thing for me would be finishing a race in the points, I think this is the first step for me.
How difficult is it for a man from Colombia to get so big in motor racing? Do you think it is more difficult coming from Colombia than, say, from France or England? Is it a special challenge?
JPM: No I think it is the same wherever you are from. I was lucky enough with the economic situation of my Country. When I needed the money it was there and I always had the backing. I think everywhere you are from, is difficult. In England is very difficult, as there are too many drivers and not enough sponsors. I was the only driver from Colombia and there was not much sponsorship either but we always managed to get support.
Do you think traction control, in use again from the next race, is going to help?
JPM: Yes, I think it could help because if you are following somebody you can actually always get a better exit out of the corners and the downforce is going to help. I think you will have more control.