Thursday March 15th, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
Formula One cars should not be slowed down just because lap times at the Australian Grand Prix were faster than expected, world champion Michael Schumacher said on Thursday.
"As a racing driver you feel obviously very happy with anything that makes you go faster," he told a news conference ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix -- the second race of the season.
"We like to go faster on circuits, to put the car more on the limit."
The world champion's pole time in Melbourne was nearly four seconds quicker than Mika Hakkinen's 2000 time and the International Automobile Federation (FIA) has said it will monitor cornering speeds closely in Malaysia this weekend.
Safety is a prime consideration after a race marshal in Australia was killed by a tyre that hit him after an accident at Melbourne.
Asked what he would say to the FIA if they asked him for a suggestion to reduce speeds, Schumacher replied simply: "No".
The German described his F2001 Ferrari as "exceptionally good", saying it was "a real racing car, like a go-kart under the Formula One car because it handles really nicely."
But he said the cars themselves were actually no faster. The difference, for him, was in the tyres.
"I think you should not do the mistake and compare 2000 Melbourne against 2001. It's quite an unfair comparison," he said.
"What you should compare is this weekend because we have been here with very good tyres already last year...you will find that the difference will be far less than what we have seen in Melbourne."
Sepang hosted the final grand prix of 2000 and the teams are returning to Malaysia after only four months away.
Schumacher said the difference at Melbourne was because tyre manufacturer Bridgestone had no competition last season -- before rivals Michelin returned to the sport -- and did a lot of development work over the year.
By the time of last year's Malaysian Grand Prix the tyres were already significantly faster.
McLaren driver David Coulthard, second in Melbourne, agreed with Schumacher that speeds did not need reducing.
"If there had not been a fatality at the last race I honestly don't think we would be having that conversation over the last couple of weeks, because none of us were complaining that the cars were going too fast," said the Scot.
"We were enjoying driving the car and it was just tragic circumstances that led suddenly to the spotlight being put back on the cars," he added.
"I think we need to get into the season and see how we are all enjoying it and how the safety is and then start looking at issues, rather than the usual knee-jerk that we have seen over previous years, going back as far as 94."
The death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994 was the last driver fatality on the racetrack in Formula One and it led to immediate changes to reduce speeds.
Coulthard said many of those regulation changes were later removed because they had not achieved what was required.
Sauber's German driver Nick Heidfeld, fourth in Australia, said regulations had to be introduced from time to time to slow the cars and prevent them from becoming undriveable.
"At the moment I don't think the cars are too quick," he said.