Happy and relaxed at his favourite circuit, a short distance from his home town of Kerpen, Michael Schumacher faced the press in a meeting at the Ferrari media motorhome this afternoon. On the Belgian track, which the German has made his own with...
Happy and relaxed at his favourite circuit, a short distance from his home town of Kerpen, Michael Schumacher faced the press in a meeting at the Ferrari media motorhome this afternoon. On the Belgian track, which the German has made his own with five wins at Spa, he was asked to recall his first ever F1 win, here at this track back in 1992, when he was driving for Benetton.
"I clearly remember that the reason I won was partly due to my team-mate Martin Brundle," recalled the five times world champion. "I had made a mistake at Stavelot and he passed me. I saw his tyres were in bad shape so I decided to pit for new ones. Then, on new tyres, I was able to build up a lead and win. It was one of my best days. It was the start of something, but at the time I had no idea where it would end. As for Spa, it is fair to say my relationship with this track is a love story. Along with Suzuka it is the best in the world. In fact, I call it my "living room!"
The Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver was only 23 years old when he took that win. With the current grid featuring many very young drivers, he was asked if recent decisions by Sauber and Toyota to employ Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Olivier Panis for next season, meant that teams were moving away from the trend to use youngsters. "First of all I don't think these two guys are so old," laughed Michael. "They won't race for ever, but maybe for the next two or three years. They have the experience. But Massa (who has lost his Sauber drive to Frentzen) might come back anyway and there are many other young drivers on the grid. Usually however, if a team can chose between two quick drivers, one young and one old, they will take the younger.
Just like his team-mate Rubens Barrichello, Schumacher was also asked about the possible use of team orders to help the Brazilian take second place in the Drivers' Championship. "Of course it is frustrating to be behind, when you think you are quicker," admitted the German, in reference to the Hungarian GP where he followed Barrichello home. "But tell me where I could have passed him on that track. There was no chance to overtake. Anyway, he supported me in Zeltweg and I am happy to help him in return. The same could happen here, but I hope not as I would like to win. We must wait and see what happens."
It was pointed out to Schumacher that despite his successful record at Spa, he had never started this race from pole. "Wow! Is that the case?" was his surprised reply. "I did not know that. Let's try and get it this year then." Finally, the world champion was asked how long he felt the current period of Ferrari dominance in F1 could last. "It is impossible to say," he reckoned. "It is not just down to me. It is a matter of team effort. F1 is unpredictable and can change very quickly. I remember in '98 no one thought we could catch McLaren, but we did it quite quickly. Others will try and beat us. They might succeed and they might not."