Malaysian GP Thursday press conference

DRIVERS: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) David Coulthard (McLaren) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) TEAM PERSONNEL: Gerhard Berger (BMW) Jean Todt (Ferrari) Q. David, this is a race in which you want to hold on to your 3rd...

Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)
David Coulthard (McLaren)
Mika Hakkinen (McLaren)
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)

Gerhard Berger (BMW)
Jean Todt (Ferrari)

Q. David, this is a race in which you want to hold on to your 3rd place in the Drivers' Championship and to help secure the Constructors' title for McLaren. Is that what you hope for from this race?

David Coulthard: It's more about trying to finish the season on a good race. I don't really think at all about whether I am third or fourth in the championship, because there is no bonus and it doesn't impact my bank balance at all. I want to go out and do the best job I can, which of course is to be on the front row and try to win the race. We will know exactly how the race has gone on Sunday evening. Yes, it is business as usual. Absolutely.

Q. Does 3rd place in the championship really mean nothing to you?

DC: I have been third a few times now, so I guess it doesn't mean quite the same as having been a double, or triple, world champion. It doesn't mean anything to me. It's about winning. I have never finished second or first, so I guess it would seem like a step forward to be finishing second in the championship.

Q. The first part of the season went so well for you, while the points were much more scarce in the second half. What happened to you there?

DC: In the first half, yes, I scored a lot of points, and then in the second half of the year I made some mistakes. The team, when it came to making some of our strategies, and I am part of that, maybe didn't make good calls on the track. There were places like Spa and Hockenheim where we just didn't get it quite right, and sometimes you need to make those [good] calls in order to score the maximum points. It was a combination of what I was doing and what we were doing as a team which meant that we didn't score as much in the second half of the year. I was still there, or thereabouts, in terms of pace and qualifying. [It's just] the race results which haven't been as strong.

Q. Mika, [for you] there seems to have been quite a [mid- season] turnaround, and looking back on it at the time, in Austria, you said you would tell us what had happened. Is now perhaps the time?

Mika Hakkinen: Well ... what I actually realised in Austria [is that I was] seeing Michael too often in the middle position on the rostrum, so I decided, 'hey, there's something wrong here,' and I started pushing a little bit. Do you want to hear the true story? I'll tell you that later ...

Q. We've got lots of time this afternoon. And we probably won't see you later ...

MH: Er, again, to be honest, it's not a conversation that I would want to share with everybody. I want to keep it a little private at the moment, with myself. I maybe want to explain later, to certain people. I don't want to tell everybody.

Q. Nevertheless, there must have been a crucial moment in the championship when you felt it had got away from you. Looking back on the whole season, when do you think that moment [arrived]?

MH: I was never thinking about it in the way that we had lost the championship until we crossed the line at Suzuka. That was the situation when we had really lost. Before that it was fighting all the way through.

Q. The retirement at Indianapolis seemed crucial, at least until you look back at the first couple of races ...

MH: OK, it is maybe something that momentarily comes to your mind, in a very short time you start thinking about what happened at Indianapolis. Naturally you think, 'OK, maybe that was the [moment] when we lost the championship.' But it's a very short time, and when you change to the professional [side of] your mind, you start looking at the future and believing, 'hey, we can [still] do it.'

Q. There is a story now going round that if you had won the championship you might have retired from motor racing, and that you may still do so. Is there any truth behind that?

MH: (laughs) Well, if I would have won three times in a row, I definitely would have stopped. But no ... I have the motivation to continue in the future also, even if I would have win. And even with the situation at the moment, I will continue.

Q. Rubens, how do you feel about 3rd in the championship? Do you think you can still do that?

RB: If David isn't bothered, then if he could not finish, and I won the race, I would be pleased.

Q. He doesn't seem to want 3rd that badly ...

DC: I think you misunderstood. It's not that I don't WANT it, I am just telling you it doesn't make any difference whether I win it or not. Of course, if it makes a difference financially to Rubens, then we can negotiate ...

RB: It's not the 3rd or 4th place [that counts], because we have been fighting in this championship the whole way. It's the motivation which counts, and that is still wide open. It will be quite difficult, because I have to win and David has to finish outside the top six. It's not that I wish to him, I wish us to have a good race, and then we'll see how it comes out. I feel I had a good season, a good first year with Ferrari. I recently realised that it had taken me more than four or five races to settle in, to make people believe what I was saying, and that I was doing good things. Then I started to test more, we started to create a really good team, especially in the relationship between me and Michael. I am still here, fighting to be 3rd in the championship, having had one race win, one pole position and a chance in this last race to double [those statistics]. So I feel good.

Q. Can you imagine hitting the ground running next year and starting the championship in a different way?

RB: If we go back over this year, with the experience I have now, it could have made quite a big difference. But next year is quite far away. There will be different cars and new engines. On past experience you have to count on Ferrari being able to work on a really good car again, and that's the way it is going. The good thing is that I feel optimistic. I have been driving on a top level right now. In the past it has been possible for people to say that 'Rubens was good here but not so good there,' while I could say it was the car or the engine [that was responsible for less good] performance, but it never came true. Now this Ferrari is a really good car with a really good engine, and I could show what I was capable of [delivering]. That was really nice. Through my life, all I have been aiming for was to race a competitive car in Formula 1.

Q. Do you think you could be chasing Michael next year?

RB: Well, Michael is a top driver: I have learned a lot with him and I hope he learned a little bit from me, as well. My main target this year was to be the hardest team mate he ever had, and I think I got that. Next year is next year: I hope we can have good races together. I am here to win, and to fight for championships, so I hope to be able to do that in the future.

Q. Jean, you have the drivers' title safely in hand, and you're almost there for the constructors'. How complicated is it this weekend?

Jean Todt: You know, sometimes the easiest things are the most difficult to achieve, so we must be very concentrated. We know that if we don't score points, they [McLaren] can take them instead. If they finish 1- 2 it's 16 points for them. You may remember what happened at Indianapolis, because that's where we scored 16 points while they scored two. We must be very careful ...

Q. Now that you have brought home one title to Ferrari, and almost won the second, you will have achieved the target for which you were appointed. How do you see your role thereafter?

JT: I mean, first, the most difficult thing is to achieve until the end. That is what we will try to do this weekend. Then we must have a strong team, a strong car, for next year because we know how tough our direct competitors will be. We know there are others who are also working very hard. So 2001 will be a very difficult year.

Q. F1 is like a fairground ride which never quite stops long enough for you to get off. From what you say, can we assume that you are already on it again for next year ...

JT: Mika has mentioned some secret things that he doesn't want to [discuss] in front of everybody. The future is something that I have to decide myself before I am able to make any announcement. At the moment my decision is to go forward, [in accordance] with the contract that I have until the end of next year, to fulfil it. Then we will see.

Q. Michael, how has life been since Suzuka?

Michael Schumacher: Very quiet! We switched off [on] an island, just my wife and me, because we didn't feel like going through the time change, after Indy and Japan, of going home and then coming back here. Naturally we were missing the kids quite deeply, but then we have to concentrate on another weekend. I would like to do as good a job as I did at Suzuka, and to do that we have to be concentrated. The time we had there [on holiday] was really perfect for what I was looking for. My wife was quite happy with me because she has never seen me so quiet, not training three or four hours per day and not doing whatever [I usually do] during the whole day. It was just easy. I read two books, which is outstanding for me. I am not a big reader. But it was good. Certainly the first three days [of holiday] were necessary because after the party we had on Sunday night [at Suzuka] I needed about three days to recover. Then I just got into the mood of lying around, moving from one sun bed to the other, having a little lunch, then back on to the sun bed to read my books. That was it. I didn't hear much about the [F1] business, I just imagined how it might be. And my imagination is quite good.

Q. So you're relaxed ...

MS: Obviously we have fulfilled the first target. That makes you already relaxed. At this race last year there was still a lot of tension.

Q. Can you help Rubens in some way to be third in the championship, and therefore help Ferrari to win the constructors' title?

MS: I guess that's the first aim. But as Rubens pointed out, David has to finish outside the first six places, which is something that doesn't normally happen. We have to see how the race develops.

Q. In Suzuka I asked you if you could imagine life changing a little bit with a third world championship. You have now had time to think about that ...

MS: I answered in Suzuka that life couldn't change very much, with the exception [that] knowing what we have achieved makes you much more pleased. I am 31. I have seen big waves of emotions - good and bad ones - and these waves make life interesting and joyful. I feel I am too young not to experience many more of these. Yes, I definitely look forward to a few more seasons of racing.

Q. Welcome, Gerhard. As an ex- Ferrari driver, what do you think of the team's achievements over the last few years?

Gerhard Berger: First of all, I want to comment on what Michael says about his wife never having seen him so relaxed. Reading a book, laying down on a beach, not training eight hours a day: it makes me wonder. I always did it like this - and I never won the world championship. Maybe this is the reason why! Maybe I did something wrong in this way. I want to congratulate Ferrari again. It's great. After many years of Ferrari trying so hard, and being very close in the last two years, this year I think they deserved to win. It's great for Formula 1, it's great for Ferrari, and there has been some unbelievably good sport in the last few weeks, between McLaren and Ferrari. Two years it was McLaren whose nose was just ahead, by a little bit. This time it was the other way around. I don't think you can really say that one or the other was better. It has been unbelievably good sport for the past two years, both on the technical and driving sides. As an ex-driver, a race like Suzuka was outstanding to me. [Imagine] knowing that you are going to win or lose the championship in a part of the race where there was a little bit of rain, to make it a bit more exciting. To drive flat out from the first lap to the last, and then to win it by a few seconds because you had a better strategy ... that is altogether something that hasn't often been seen in the history of Formula 1. I want to congratulate everyone who was involved in it. It was great to watch.

Q. Do you believe that BMW and Williams can challenge McLaren or Ferrari within the next year?

GB: Our goal, of course, is to get closer to them. I think we did a great job this year, and we also achieved something very special for our entry as BMW. We know we need to improve again, and our goal is hopefully to close the gap on those two leading teams. But I also know how difficult it is, how thin the air is at this [altitude]. Everyone will improve their package for next year, and if we want to get closer we basically have to make two steps [to the others' one]. Most of the time, two steps forward means also taking one backwards. So we know how critical is our situation. We are working very hard ... but it's going to be very difficult.

Q. Have you been surprised this year?

GB: Yes. It went better than we expected, no question, but on the other side we have good facilities, a good budget, good people ... so we had everything we needed to do a proper job. It ended up good - sometimes with luck, sometimes with hard work, and sometimes it just worked out well for us. But in the end the only thing that counts is the results, and the result seems to be OK.

Q. Following up that question, could each of you look ahead and name which team and driver is most likely to break the Ferrari/McLaren domination?

DC: This is just a guess. I don't even know who's 3rd in the constructors at the moment, because I haven't been looking. It's Williams? I guess they're in the next best position. And Ralf [as the driver].

MH: The way this season has gone, I believe the future will be very similar. Maybe the one who is third at the moment will be a little closer. A driver? I don't know ...

MS: It is pretty clear which is the team to watch, after what you have seen from BMW and Williams in their first year together, with so many new things, especially from BMW. They will have learned many lessons, I guess. So I see them being much closer and maybe winning a race here or there next year. [As driver] I obviously favour my brother more because I cannot judge what Montoya is going to do. My brother has done an outstanding job this year with the package that was available. Whether BMW and Williams achieve it at the beginning, the middle or the end of next year is something we still have to find out.

JT: We will have a new car, a new engine and a strong team, but you must never take it for granted that this will be enough to challenge McLaren and Mercedes. Saying that, I agree with the others that Williams and BMW have been the strongest behind us. Ralf is quick and consistent, he now has the [necessary] experience, so he is my answer [for the driver to watch].

RB: I agree with all of that and I hope that there will be another South American driving for wins. It's just a good guess, because I don't know how well Montoya will be able to [perform] in our series. I went to see the Indy- car race [in Australia] last week, where he crashed on the first lap, so I wasn't able to see much of him. Next year he will have [heating] blankets on the tyres, so it shouldn't be a problem.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Gerhard Berger , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams