Thursday May 17th, 2001
Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher said on Thursday he would like teammate Rubens Barrichello to stay with the Maranello-based outfit after the end of the 2001 season, when the Brazilian's contract expires.
Barrichello, who joined the world champion team last season to replace Ulsterman Eddie Irvine, has been rumoured to be set to be replaced at the end of the year, and he has also been in the spotlight following the Austrian Grand Prix, where he was asked to concede second place to Schumacher.
However, despite all the rumours surrounding Barrichello's future, triple world champion Schumacher admitted he wants the Brazilian to stay at Ferrari next season.
Asked if he would choose to keep Barrichello in the team, Schumacher replied, "Yes. He is a great teammate and very quick," Schumacher said. "It was necessary for what happened to be cleared up with the team, but not with me. After all, you have to look at everything and not just the last race. Rubens is doing a great job.
"Everyone has their own opinion on what happened. I think Jean Todt explained it very well, drawing a comparison with the recent elections in Italy: some see it one way, others another. It was our philosophy which led to this decision, while McLaren operates in a different way.
"We do what we think is best, not what suits others," Schumacher added. "Could I have overtaken Coulthard if Rubens had let me by? For sure I was a little bit quicker but in order to overtake him, I would have had to be much quicker than him. All in all, I reckon that unless Coulthard had made a mistake, I would not have got past."
The German driver, whose contract with Ferrari expires at the end of the 2002 season, also admitted he was happy to see Ferrari's president Luca di Montezemolo turning down an offer from Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's new president, to become a minister in his government.
Asked how important it was for the team that President di Montezemolo had turned down the offer, Schumacher said, "Very. From the moment I came here I have always had his 100% support. Even though he is not involved in the technical detail he has always backed us each and every time we needed it to develop the car in order improve, in short, to make it go quicker. Montezemolo has always been a help to us and this is very important as is the work down in ensuring stability within the team."
The Austrian Grand Prix last Sunday at the A1-Ring circuit saw four cars left stranded on the starting grid due to failures in the recently-introduced launch control systems, arising safety concerns for the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix. However, Schumacher believes the new electronic systems are not dangerous and will make the sport safer in the future.
"It is always dangerous when a car does not move at the start," he said. "But I don't think the electronics are dangerous, as for example Mika Hakkinen was left on the grid in Brazil, before the electronics had been introduced.
"In Zeltweg, all the cars had the same problem as there was a lot of grip on the track and no one was prepared for that. These things won't happen again and electronics will prove to be a step forward on the safety front."