Toyota's Ralf Schumacher looks back at the Monaco Grand Prix Q: Was Monaco a lot of hard work for eighth place and one point? Ralf Schumacher. Photo by xpb.cc. Ralf Schumacher: That's the way it always is at Monte Carlo. It is...
Toyota's Ralf Schumacher looks back at the Monaco Grand Prix
Q: Was Monaco a lot of hard work for eighth place and one point?
Ralf Schumacher: That's the way it always is at Monte Carlo. It is quite a tough race physically and mentally because with its slower average lap speed it is the longest race in terms of time. We are all fit, obviously, and so that's not an issue in itself, but you do have to maintain concentration. On most tracks you have grass or run-off areas on the exit of corners, but if you make a single mistake in Monaco it's a wall or a barrier that catches you. You don't get any second chances.
Q: Is there a different approach, therefore?
RS: Well, you simply have to be more accepting of any limitations imposed on you by factors such as car balance. Another thing is that the track surface changes so much between the first time you go out on Thursday and the race. That's true everywhere, of course, but not as much as in Monaco, when the lap times can differ by as much as five seconds. The Thursday times in Monte Carlo are probably less relevant than most other first days during the season. The main aim is to play yourself into a rhythm and avoid damaging the car.
Q: Was Monaco a difficult place to debut the new TF106B then?
RS: No. We knew before we came that the car is a small step in the right direction but not a huge one. We're talking about a couple of tenths of a second or so, because the changes are mechanical, for stiffness reasons and so forth. The car does not have a completely new aero package.
Q: How did it feel?
RS: We had a difficult pair of practice sessions on Thursday and finding grip was a struggle. The track seemed to take even longer than normal to rubber-in and we were still working on the balance in Saturday free practice.
Q: Why were the Toyotas down the time sheets in Saturday practice?
RS: As I say, we still had some balance issues and some tyre graining, and so we were concentrating on finding the right race tyre. We therefore stayed in race trim and didn't put on any new tyres before qualifying, which is why we looked particularly weak on Saturday morning. But we were always confident that our times would be much more competitive and representative in qualifying, which is the way it was.
Q: Did that make it hard to bolt on new rubber and attack in qualifying?
RS: Experience helps in that situation. You have to get used to it but then you have two chances anyway, so it's better to use those tyres in qualifying than in free practice. In qualifying the car actually felt the best it had been all weekend and although I did not quite make it through to the final session, I still set a time I could be happy with even if we weren't as strong as we'd been in the previous two races.
Q: Was qualifying traffic-free or problematic, as many had predicted?
RS: Actually I was quite lucky with traffic, so well done to the engineers on getting the timing right! But, since the balance was not quite 100% in Monaco during the whole weekend, I had to be careful. You need total confidence to have real pace and so there's not much you can do if you have a certain limit imposed by the car. Push over it and you find yourself in the barrier. And that makes no sense at all.
Q: As fastest man outside the top 10, did you fuel up for a long first stint?
RS: That was the plan but, in the end, I pitted before schedule. My team mate stopped on lap 45 and I had similar fuel but I came in on lap 39 because I spent the first part of the race stuck behind Nick Heidfeld and we were trying to gain track position. Unfortunately it didn't work out because he stopped earlier than we were expecting.
Q: You qualified well ahead of Heidfeld. Did you have trouble at the start?
RS: Yes. We will be looking into it because my team mate also lost positions. I Iost out to Christian Klien and Heidfeld, who both qualified behind me, and, as everyone knows, when you are behind someone in Monaco you tend to stay there unless they make a mistake. I had a new set of tyres left for the start and so had actually been hopeful of gaining a position. Looking on the bright side, it was an improvement on last year, when I started last!
Q: Looking ahead, how do you see things?
RS: We have a test at Barcelona before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and both tracks are very different to Monte Carlo. We will be able to further evaluate and develop the TF106B on higher speed tracks that should play more to the mechanical advances we have made with the car. It is then a question of just building on any improvements and developing the car over the rest of the season. It has been a difficult start for the whole team but everyone is working hard to make progress and take the package forward.