Saturday March 31st, 2001
You can listen to the TV press conference at http://www.f1press.com
Q: Michael, you and Ferrari haven't appeared to dominate the early running this weekend in the same way as you have in the opening two rounds of the season. We've seen McLaren and Williams appear as the fastest cars of the day - are you surprised to have taken pole position today?
Michael Schumacher: Basically you know the qualifying situation in the last moment and not too early. I guess that some people, particularly yesterday, were driving with low fuel level and then makes the picture looking different to what is the normal facts. But we know pretty well from when we see that lap time things where we stand and we knew it would be tight, but we knew we had a chance and finally we did it. Obviously it's a great pleasure to see my little boy next to me.
Q: But now it's your seventh pole in a row. And the previous six produced a race victory, do you think that puts you in good stead for tomorrow?
MS: Generally we are in good state. We know from testing, from races that our car is very competitive - probably the best in the field I'd say - and you know if we don't do mistakes, if nothing unusual happens, then there's no reason why we shouldn't have opportunity to win. But to have the opportunity and to finally do are two separate things and I don't know how hard the Mika and the other guys will make the race to me.
Q: Thank you, Michael. Ralf congratulations on your second place. I noticed at the end you and Michael were comparing tyres, obviously he's on the Bridgestone and you on the Michelin. How good were the tyres today in qualifying?
Ralf Schumacher: Well I mean looking at the result it can't be that bad actually. There's always things to improve but I mean except Melbourne where we had a little struggle initially they have supplied very good tyres so far and I guess in the race tomorrow they to be even a little bit better.
Q: Looking ahead to the race, you have very good straight line speed with your BMW engine, how do you think that's going to affect the way you race because you'll be very hard to overtake. So provided you make a good start you should be in good, strong form.
RS: Well yeah. We have the BMWs which are the best engines for tomorrow I think but I have the dirty line on the inside which isn't always good especially here. But I think we'll see if I have a good start it should be difficult to overtake and Mika can tell you I guess.
Q: Thank you very much, Ralf. Mika you've been on pole here for the last three visits, not to be this time, what do you put down the reason for not being on pole today?
Mika Hakkinen: Well it's very simple, you know, Michael was quicker. He was quicker than the McLaren was and that's why. It was very important to push the car and he is on pole position today.
Q: All the top six drivers chose to go out in the last four minutes, do you think that was to the detriment of those closing laps?
MH: The reason was really just to get a clear run and the way it went with small runs, go out and come in. There is always the risk of the last minute because if something happens - oil on the track or yellow flags - but this risk has to be taken.
Q: Okay Mika, thank you very much, now back to Michael. Looking ahead to the race tomorrow with three different teams on the front three of the grid how do you view the race?
MS: Well, to be first you first have to finish that's the main thing, and I like to finish I like to score the points. If we can win it would be nice to have another victory but I'm sure every good series will have an end. Always there is up and downs and we have been seeing a very long duration of up and I hope we continue to see that for a while, but we find out.
Q: So Michael are you a bit surprised to see him (Ralf) alongside?
MS: No, not at all. I mean if you look at Malaysia and probably... particularly if you look at the Free Practice it was more obvious that they would be much closer this weekend.
Q: And you mentioned your parents in Malaysia, what do you think they're going to think of this?
MS: Yeah it will be probably with a higher heartbeat, particular during the start in the first corner! Though we have given some good shows - I remember Silverstone, Zeltweg or Barcelona so let's see what happens tomorrow then. It will be a good, entertaining race I'm sure.
Q: How would you rate your brother - just the same as anybody else?
MS: Listen, I mean we know each other well enough. We will be hard but fair, he drives for BMW and I drive for Ferrari so obviously two separate interests and he has to do what he has to do and so do I. We for sure, you know, will not make crash out of the situation but it will be tough.
RS: I hope so.
Q: You seemed to only have two runs in qualifying?
MS: I did what?
Q: You had only two... two runs, really. Three runs.
MS: I did four but I aborted one. Three runs.
Q: Why did you abort that one?
MS: Because I was too slow. I had a mistake in Turn 4, I run wide and at that point - it was my third run - it was already quite good so it was no point to continue.
Q: This weekend seems that McLaren has got a bit closer, Williams has got a bit closer, were you expecting to be on pole I mean really, sort of the last couple of days up until qualifying you didn't look as though you might be on pole?
MS: Yes. We knew we had chance, put it this way. We were confident, we didn't use new tyres this morning when everyone else was on new tyres doing their times, we didn't really try to be fastest we were simply working, preparing for the weekend and all the time we knew we were there. We knew it would be more tight than Malaysia - on the other side when you see that gap it's about the same as Malaysia, actually. But then if you look at the sectors then you should say that in qualifying I got it right and in second he could have been closer to me.
Q: So you are pretty happy with the way it's gone so far?
Q: No problems?
MS: No. Not really... sorry.
Q: Okay Ralf, congratulations, your best ever grid position in your Formula One career after France in 1997 (according to my notes!), how much, just as a matter of interest, were you revved up by Juan Pablo going quicker than you this morning?
RS: No, I just think I had a pretty difficult weekend. Starting on Friday with the gearbox problem and so the whole Friday was basically nothing from there I couldn't go out in the car at all to the first hour this morning basically to do my work. I must say Juan did a very good job this weekend and he's a lot closer than I expected at the beginning of this weekend to be honest. But there you are, he's a great driver - we know that - and he did a good job and he brought it together and he was a bit unlucky to go off in the qualifying laps but apart from that...
Q: Is the car pretty perfect, do you feel?
RS: I must say I think the car is reasonably good otherwise we wouldn't be able to be where we are but it's very difficult to drive at the moment. To bring one complete lap with this car at present, it is quite difficult and that's the reason we are three tenths away. I mean putting everything together could have been closer as he (Michael), just said but we find it a bit difficult at the moment to find the good balance of the car. Or let's say we have the balance but it is a tricky, difficult car at the moment.
Q: And in race conditions?
RS: Well I mean from what we've seen so far in racing, especially under these conditions where the ground's hot, helps us with the tyre situation and I'm pretty confident for the race for that reason. But I mean I'm not - I'm quite sure that we can beat the Ferrari from the race performance we have seen in the last two but we can beat McLaren.
Q: The fact that it clouded over a bit , the track temperature cooled by about four or five degrees, did that work a little bit to your advantage at the end?
RS: Um... don't think so. I mean we all went slow a bit, I went slower in the last run and so did most of us - no what was the reason was I changed a small thing on the car which didn't turn out to be quite as good as I thought actually. But I mean obviously if it would have worked to our advantage I would be somewhere else now.
Q: Okay, thanks Ralf. Mika, did you think that you were going to be able to catch Michael perhaps more this weekend?
MH: Yes definitely but... yes. I was quite confident because I knew we would get some new parts in the car which should make the balance better and enable us to go round the corners quicker. So I was much more confident and I knew we had got improvements from the morning so I was really expecting an improvement, and it did happen, I was very happy about that. It did happen. They've done very good work since the start of the season - we obviously had some difficulties and just glad to get on top of it and stay focused and I think if we improve then we have to get closer.
Q: Still three tenths behind.
Q: Did you expect to be closer than that?
MH: No not really to be honest. I was expecting to be more competitive here than ever and it did happen, looking back to Malaysia, so I'm very positive about that and everybody just has to work harder and... to understand the problems.
Q: Are you feeling pretty good about the race?
MS: Yes. I mean obviously the season's starting for me and in Australia and Malaysia things did not go exactly how we planned it to go but this race in fact, the history, is a very difficult race there's a technical side. So I'm confident to push very hard tomorrow for the start of the race and then in part depends on the brothers and of course if they can small mistake hopefully which would make an opportunity to pass. I'm really looking forward to race tomorrow.
Q: And of course it's incredibly close amongst yourself, David, Rubens - very, very close. You're covered by I think a tenth of a second.
MH: Yes. Unfortunately! It's very close but... and what's the problem at the moment is that Ralf is in front of me and his straight line speed is very fast at the moment. So he will be difficult to overtake in a straight line. He has to make an accident tomorrow to be able to do that. And I'm sure the Michael, you know, if he gets the lead in the start he definitely has a very wide car in a straight line to overtake him. So it's going to be very close racing tomorrow I believe. Which is good.
Q: Ralf, first corner tomorrow, side by side with Michael, will it enter your mind that he's your brother or is it the same as Mika or David or Juan Pablo or anybody?
RS: It will never be the same, he will always be my brother. But I mean for the question I think it's kind of simple anyway you've seen us racing against each other and I think if anything it was harder than anything else. But usually we have touched but we have never crashed... until one time in Nürburgring which is long time ago. That wasn't... really that was a race incident. I think it depends where I am, obviously I will try to maintain my position or overtake him but if it doesn't make sense I will pull back as I would with any other situation.
Q: For Ralf, Michael do you remember the last time you were starting in the same race on the front row? Was there ever a race? Can you share the joke?
RS: There was once in a go-kart race in Kerpen not so long ago. Maybe five, six years, ten years I don't know. I'm already that old I always forget about it, sorry! We were starting and I was in front - it was a rain race and Michael was behind me trying to overtake me but couldn't so he had to pull behind me and then with the little brake pedal. You know go-kart exhausts, there's a hole like that? And he came with this brake pedal into my exhaust and rip it off. So that was the last time. He did it on purpose. That was the last time, yes.
Q: Michael, you said you were happy with everything today, you didn't mention Rubens' result.
MS: But you asked about me. So. If you ask about the team it's a different question.
Q: Do you have a feeling about the team's result?
MS: Yes certainly I have, but I haven't been asked about this. So. If I express this then certainly for Rubens in his home Grand Prix not to be where he wanted to be I mean at least in the first row it's obviously disappointing when so close the gaps - what is he, fifth? Fifth or sixth? As far back as he is is obviously not nice for him and to some degree for the team and for myself but then it's so close we have to see what happen. And that's my brother so obviously I'm more in love with him than with someone else!
Q: A question for Mika, Mika even with the long straights here is not so easy to overtake at Interlagos. Do you think, as long as you have the same Bridgestone tyres as Michael, that the pit stop strategy can play a defence here? Can be the chance to... to go to the front?
MH: It's definitely going to be one of the important points for tomorrow's race. Find the right tactic. The right time.
Q: Michael with your brother here would you say the Williams to be trhe second opponent in the battle for the title?
MS: I mean if you look in the performance in the last two races in qualifying you should mention it. Because look at the race performance, maybe it's a different issue. We have two different tyre companies and qualifying and races are a different matter sometimes for the two companies. As we obviously are very happy with the Bridgestone supply because they provide very good tyres for qualifying and the race conditions. But I don't know about the Michelin, you have to ask Ralf. Yet it's too early to say who is in the contender obviously because we're pretty early in the season and you know we have seen pretty good performance from BMW. We have seen very good performance from McLaren - who will be the one we find out later stage in the season.
Q: A question for Ralf about the Michelin tyres. And also about the BMW engine in general seems to be incredible, especially on the straight.
RS: I've said before Michelin has supplied us very good tyres, especially in the last two races I mean in Melbourne we struggled a bit but now we are alright again. We have to wait now until the race tomorrow. Concerning the engine I think, yes, BMW has come up with a very good engine. Which is similar to the one you see next to me. Looking at the straight line speed, lots of that is as well maybe from the car side, pure aerodynamical efficiency as well or us being able to drive less drag on the straights. Look at our wing levels, surely you will see that.
Q: Michael, you were surprised by the level of Montoya? You were the only one who beat his time on the track. You are the only one who beat him with the times...
MS: You have to see that in the morning always slightly faster because of temperatures. When it's morning I don't think has much relevant to what happ0ened this afternoon. And you have to look at the pure situation. What happened this afternoon? He did a good job, better than what he has for previous races, that's fact and we have to see what he can do with it tomorrow.