Tyres, said Ferrari's Jean Todt, will decide this year's World Championship, "as they have done in the past." That was his verdict after Michael Schumacher and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro converted a worrying qualifying in wet conditions into a ...
Tyres, said Ferrari's Jean Todt, will decide this year's World Championship, "as they have done in the past." That was his verdict after Michael Schumacher and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro converted a worrying qualifying in wet conditions into a stunning race-winning performance in variable conditions at the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai on Sunday.
"After qualifying yesterday and the weather forecast today, (Sunday) we are more than delighted by the final result," admitted Todt after the race. "We know that wet conditions are not the best for us at the moment and when Michael was sixth after the fantastic qualifying, and due to Felipe Massa's engine change, 20th on the grid, with our major competitors in first and second positions, I was more calculating how many points we would lose considering that Michael was two points behind in the Drivers' series before the race and Ferrari was three points ahead in the Manufacturers'.
"So finishing this race in China with Michael taking the lead in the Drivers' championship - when I say taking the lead, he's leading the championship with the same amount of points but seven wins against six - and Ferrari being one point behind in the Manufacturers', we can be very happy.
"There are two races to go, we know our races can be unpredictable, but we must not forget where we were after the Montreal Grand Prix in the Manufacturers' and the Drivers' championships. We have very strong competitors to fight with, but we have demonstrated that we are very tight and hard competitors to fight with as well, so it will be interesting but I will not allow myself to make predictions about the final result. We will see."
Once again, Todt paid tribute to his team. "Michael did a great race, the team did a fantastic job. Felipe drove a very good race. Unfortunately he could not reap the benefit of it because he damaged his suspension when he had the incident with Coulthard but he had been doing a great job supporting the team to help Michael to chose when to put dry tyres on, so it has been very good teamwork as usual."
Todt rated Schumacher's victory simply an "important one. It is a great win, but he has had other great wins. It was a combination of strategy, teamwork, Michael's control of the car in different conditions. He attacked when he had to attack. He slowed down when he could slow down. It was a perfectly controlled race from him, the team and the package he was driving But Todt admitted he was concerned right up until the last lap, as the drizzle began to fall again. "When Michael crossed the line on lap 55 he was four seconds ahead and it was rain conditions with slick tyres so you would be stupid to think that it was going to be easy. We knew it could happen and I was completely concerned that he could lose the car on the last lap."
Asked if he thought that this year's championship battle has been as tough as he has known over the past ten years, Todt replied "I would not say so. We have had championships '97, '98, '99, all the championships were lost at the last race except the Manufacturers' championship in '99 which we won at the last race. So, I would say we have been fighting for the championship since '97 except 2005 when we had a bad season. Some seasons were very tough, some seasons were a bit more comfortable. Let's say this one is tough but we are still fighting."
So did that experience maybe give Ferrari an advantage, considering its current position? Todt dismissed the question. "What gives you an advantage is to have the right tyres, the right reliability, the right strategy, that's what makes the advantage." He was similarly dismissive when it was suggested that Michael could win the title in Japan next weekend, even though there would still be one race to go. "And Ferrari can lose the Manufacturers' championship as well," he interjected. But did that fact relieve the team of a little pressure? "No. It goes quickly. What remains is the title and the wins, so let's work for that."