US GP Saturday press conference

Drivers: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes) Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW) Q: Michael, that was superb. It seems that you picked up a lot of time in the final sector. Was that your advantage? MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: ...


Drivers:
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes)
Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW)

Q: Michael, that was superb. It seems that you picked up a lot of time in the final sector. Was that your advantage?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Actually, thought there was -- I thought we were fastest in the final sector for a while, wasn't we? Somebody else was faster. But we have been strong all weekend in the last sector. Straight-line speeds are the fastest, as well. So that's mostly correlated to each other because it's only one corner in the straight.

Q: The fact that you were very quick meant you didn't do the final run.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Yeah.

Q: Were you that confident going into the session?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: No, the fact is that you know when you have achieved the maximum. And when you don't have a view how to improve the car, any more without just wasting time, then -- and you know you have done the best yourself for what's possible in the circumstance, then you call it. I have done it a couple times this year. And although I thought having a two-tenths up compared to the other guys, it should last. But you never sure. But I knew I couldn't improve the time anyway.

Q: What about this morning's engine problem, was that a bit of a worry?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Well, it meant that we had to put an engine in that wasn't as good as the other one. That was the only worry. See, we're still quite good.

Q: Are you suggesting there were different specifications?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: You have to ask the engine people. I don't know exactly.

Q: Didn't feel as good?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: It did feel very good, honestly. No, I can't complain at all. Even the speeds they looked very good. So maybe because I felt a problem early on with the engine in the morning, maybe we had the problem very early on already and this engine, even though it's supposed to be slightly worse, actually turns out better.

Q: Mika, congratulations. Going to be nice on the front row, isn't it?

MIKA HAKKINEN: Definitely fantastic.

Q: I can tell you really enjoy this. How much did you change the car during the session?

MIKA HAKKINEN: It changes, but nothing major to be honest. It is like I said, small changes.

Q: I'm told you have a different engineer this weekend. Has he got a different approach? Has that contributed to it, you think?

MIKA HAKKINEN: It's difficult to say. Everybody works a little bit differently. Mark Williams is -- I have worked with him since '98 in testing and got opportunities Grand Prix to engineer. He has done great work, and I'm very pleased.

Q: You aborted the first run. What was wrong there?

MIKA HAKKINEN: Second run I aborted. I wasn't going quicker, and it was not smart to continue.

Q: Ralf. Where do you feel your speed is coming from this weekend? Is it straight line?

RALF SCHUMACHER: Obviously. Always straight line, isn't it?

Q: Not necessarily.

RALF SCHUMACHER: We have just a few corners here. I mean, we haven't been really slow recently, have we? So you expect us somewhere. We might be a bit lucky due to the fact that the two teammates of these two guys maybe didn't get the optimum amount of their car. Apart from that, we have heard, as I said before in the press conference, a different weekend. We started a little bit on the tire sides, but we hope that will become better as the track and the weather, it's improving for tomorrow.

Q: But it is all due to the fact that the temperatures are fairly low, isn't it?

RALF SCHUMACHER: Part of it is due to that fact, and partly, as well, on low-grip circuits we have always struggled a bit, and that has become better, quite a lot. But it's still not as good as it should be, maybe.

Q: Michael, I can't remember which run it was, it was fairly early on. On the television monitors, we saw quite a bit of smoke coming out of your engine fairing early on on the lap. But certainly didn't seem like it was much checking of it going on when you came in. Did you feel anything? Was there anything, or was it just a bit of oil got on the pipes?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Obviously, I'm not aware of this. I don't watch the mirrors too much. And, no, I didn't notice anything. I guess it was because it's freshly put in without any lap that maybe somewhere there was a bit of oil touching the exhaust, I don't know.

Q: As far as courses go, are there any more or any less passing opportunities here than on some of the other courses that you run on?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: You have a very good opportunity for overtaking maneuvers down here, certainly. It's a very long straight, which happens to give this opportunity. We do have other circuits where we have, as well, opportunities. I should go through all of them, but it's a bit too long to do this now, but at least one good opportunity is here.

Q: Is that before starting up front here?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: No, actually, the other way around. If you're not up front, you still can hope within the race you might overtake and win the race.

Q: Your garages tell me you guys burn off five pounds of fuel a lap. How long did you it take for you to feel the car getting better because of lighter fuel load?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Very often what happens is that the fuel burns off, the car feels better, but the tires go off similar amount. So most of the time that equals out each other.

Q: Michael, for the past couple of years you seemed your biggest competition came from the fellow to your right. Now you got the Williams. Does that add any extra pressure to the team?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: I thought he was the second fastest. Anyway, we have now used to be only Mika and myself in 1999 and 2000, and '98 to some degree. Now it's my brother on top, which makes it more exciting and interesting. You have more variation within the positions over the season, and that's obviously something I enjoy at least.

Q: To follow-up, does it make family get-togethers a little tougher?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: No, I wouldn't say.

RALF SCHUMACHER: We get together every two weeks anyway, don't we?

Q: Michael, you said you had reached your maximum, but if one of these guys had beaten that, would you have gone out and found a new maximum?

RALF SCHUMACHER: Impossible. Time was over.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Yeah, true, time was over. I mean, I wouldn't have gone. I told the team before I didn't see any necessity, exactly. And that's it. I mean, no.

Q: I would like to ask all three of you what you expect on the start tomorrow and with the long straight here going into the first turn, is the start here as risky maybe as some other places?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: It's -- I don't see too much risk. We always have a first corner after a start, some are tighter than others. But, why, I guess it's going to be an exciting moment for all of us to get into the first corner and see whoever is first.

Q: Any further comment from Mika or Ralf?

MIKA HAKKINEN: The third turn is definitely very wide and gives plenty opportunities for drivers to make a move before the first corner, and first corner also actually quite wide, too. If you compare to last Grand Prix, this circuit, definitely, the first corner seems to be much safer. I'm sure we don't have to talk about any kind of agreement here.

Q: Mika, you went out in front of David apparently to give him a tow. Do you think you would have benefitted if it was the other way around?

MIKA HAKKINEN: Well, I was behind David once, but it didn't give me any advantage. I think the most ideal situation would be that way the end of your run, end of your time lap when you are going around the very last or second last -- third last corner to be behind the other car you get great tow and get maybe some lap-time benefit. But you have to be quite close to the other car to really get the maximum tow on the straight line. If you do that, you will lose in the corners, Turn 1, Turn 2 and Turn 3. It's very difficult. So I don't think of any advantage when I was following David and vice-versa.

Q: Michael, the difference between you and the ninth in the grid is eight-tenths. Can you analyze this moment of Formula 1?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: I didn't understand the question. Say it again.

Q: The gap between you and the ninth in the grid is only eight-tenths. Can you analyze this moment of Formula 1?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Actually, we saw that last year between the first and the last, the gap was smaller, I think, than in other circuits. Cars seem to be more close to each other. But I have no clue why that is the reason -- why there is a reason for that.

Q: Michael, you talk about the maximum. I assume that was based on the feel of that lap, you knew that that lap was good based on the feel of the car and your performance. Did you have a time that you thought was an excellent time? Was there a time in mind that you had?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: No. We drivers have the feeling when we put the cars right in the maximum, and that's what basically tells us what can be improved or not improved. Then we know what is the technical situation what could be done on this side, and at some stage you really know that's it.

Q: Can you feel the difference between a lap that's a tenth of a second apart from another lap when you're out there, how closely can you judge when you're out of the course what you're turning in terms of times?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: I mean, I guess all of us, we're so sensible that we probably should talk within thousands or hundreds, at least.

RALF SCHUMACHER: Not bad, huh?

MIKA HAKKINEN: Yeah, not bad.

Q: Michael, are these races any more fun that you don't have to worry about the championship, that's already clinched, all you have to do is race for the victory?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: I was thinking too much about these two comments. Can you repeat the question?

Q: Is a race like this even more fun because you don't have to worry about the points championship?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Certainly. That's what I have said before. That having done the championship makes you free for the individual event. You simply enjoy that and try to fight, try to do the best and try to win.

Q: Mika, last year David jumped the gun on the start. How important is reaction time in the front row, the front two in regards to start of Formula 1 race?

MIKA HAKKINEN: It's very important, indeed, the reaction time, indeed. Now it is definitely different than last year. Basically the bottom of the car. Keep your foot down, and that is the reaction time. When the light change, you take your finger off the throttle, the car accelerates. After that, up to the electronics and mechanical parts of the car to control the traction and acceleration when you're hitting the first corner. So in one sense it's quite change.

Q: One other quick question about the start. Last year, there was some concern about this exposed area of the yard of bricks, as they call it there. Is there any concern about that this time with the traction control?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: The concern was there last year and has been taken care of this year. Pole position is one step behind the original pole position.

Q: I think I saw some tire smoke in one of your laps, is that right? And if it was, was that a tire problem or driver problem?

RALF SCHUMACHER: Can't resist from smoking, that's my main problem. No, it was simply the last lap when I had the mistake, when I made that mistake, I simply locked the front wheel.

Q: Mika, did you feel yourself like -- do you feel yourself like Michael. I mean Michael won the championship, so he is relaxed. He is quite relaxed. For you the same after that -- your news that you will retire for a year and the -- Ralf for the problem for tomorrow for the race should be the tires, at least the problem of the tires?

MIKA HAKKINEN: Definitely, because my decision and the decision with the team together, I'm very relaxed. Been able to now tell everybody what I'm going to do in the future. So I don't have to hide anything what I'm going to say. I can just focus now for the rest of the two races and try to do the maximum for myself and for the team and enjoy and take everything out of these two Grand Prix that I can. So I do feel - I feel good.

Q: And Ralf?

RALF SCHUMACHER: So long ago I forgot. No, I know the tire. This could be a problem, but we sort of on both companies this weekend. It's a good thing that microphone, isn't it? It's amazing what you can do with it. So I think we all face a similar problem.

Q: This is for Michael and Ralf. Would you two enjoy ever being on the same team with each other or do you think that that might strain brotherly relations?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: I think you have to put it the other way around. We probably would enjoy, but if the team would enjoy.

Q: Can any of the three of you comment? You guys picked up about two and a half seconds, I believe, over last year. Can you sort of rate what the -- rank the factors and where the time has been picked up?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: Certainly the tires. Bridgestone made a good effort again. That's the main factor, obviously. We developed the car, as well engine horsepower, but the big factor is certainly tires.

Q: Thank you very much indeed.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Michael Schumacher , Mika Hakkinen , Mark Williams
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams