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Monday, May 15, 2006

Spanish Grand Prix press conference

With Alonso, Schumacher and Fisichella
A flawless race from Fernando Alonso saw him take his first home Grand Prix triumph in Spain while Michael Schumacher had to be satisfied with the runner-up spot ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella.

Q: Fernando, that looked like 66 perfect laps.
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, I think we did our maximum race performance today. The tyres performed really well throughout the race. We had some doubts before the start
and everything went perfectly. As we planned, we pushed in the first stint, we were lighter than the Ferraris so we needed a gap. We found the gap quite quickly and then it could have been a defensive race from there on, but it was not the case. This time Ferrari was not coming really strongly so I was just maintaining the gap and especially in the last stint, controlling the revs and trying to finish a race that was obviously very long for me today.

Q: It certainly looked as if you were enjoying the closing laps of the race. Can you just describe to us your emotions as you took the chequered flag?
FA: During the last five or six laps, I saw that Michael was slowing down as well, not pushing any more so it was just four or five laps just cruising to the end and for sure the chequered flag finished the race and I finished everything in front of everybody here, in front of my people, my supporters. I think it was the best feeling so far in Formula One, equal to the Grand Prix of Brazil, when I won the championship.
I finished third in that race with a lot of problems, defending the third place and I didn’t enjoy it so much as I did today, when I was alone, leading the race.

Q: Michael, a very strong second place for you, splitting the Renaults. How much was it defined for you having to sit behind Giancarlo Fisichella?
Michael SCHUMACHER: The race result didn’t really have anything to do with that, because Giancarlo was going at a certain pace, which at certain moments I couldn’t match and clearly, as the weekend developed, it started very well for us and then it sort of went away from us over the weekend which we obviously have to understand and look into. But we were simply not quick enough today.

Q: Obviously he won the drag race into the first corner but you obviously carried a lot more fuel into the race, a lot more than the Renaults.
MS: Yeah, I mean if you consider the amount of fuel we carried, it would have been easy to achieve pole position yesterday but our strategy was obviously different. It worked out at the Nurburgring. Here, it would have worked out had we been quick enough, but because the speed wasn’t there it didn’t work out.
Q: Your thoughts on that second place and a good solid eight points.
MS: Yeah, absolutely, it’s eight points. You have to understand at certain moments what is possible and what is not possible. You can only try so much yourself. You have to rely on your package, and again, it didn’t work out today but there’s a long way to go until the end of the season, so as we have seen, I was probably not so happy just to gain two points in the last two races. Now I’m reasonably happy to lose only two points. It’s the way it’s going to go and we’ll have to see what happens through the year.

Q: Giancarlo, P3 for you, a very strong start to the race, leading Michael, obviously very important from a team point of view, the position you took.
Giancarlo FISICHELLA: Yes, of course. We did a great start, even better than Fernando and after the first corner, we were able to hold first and second places. We set a good pace and for the first part of the race we were a bit lighter than Ferrari but the pace was quite good. In the second stint, just after the first stint, Michael came across the circuit and just passed me at the pit stop. After that, when I was in turn three, my engineers called me to say something and I was in the middle of turn three, and I lost control of the car and I went onto the gravel and maybe I damaged the car. It wasn’t bad, the car balance was OK but the grip wasn’t great, but apart from that it’s a great result for us and as we expected, it was a tough race between us and Ferrari.

Q: Fernando, returning to you, you said yesterday that you didn’t think 66 laps were going to be enough for you to enjoy but you have conceded that it seemed like a long race towards the end. Again, just talk us through those few emotional moments for you.
FA: It’s true that to race here and to race in front of an all blue grandstand is a different feeling compared to all the other races and it’s true that 66 laps is not enough probably to enjoy all the race but when you are leading with ten seconds or whatever I think you want to finish the race, already, and celebrate victory if you can. It was a fantastic day, difficult to forget for me.

Q: Fernando, does it get any better than winning at home and being greeted on the podium by your King?
FA: No, so far it’s the best thing that has probably happened to me in Formula One, apart from Brazil where I won the championship, this one was maybe a better feeling because I crossed the line winning the race. In Brazil it was a dramatic race because I had to defend third position to be champion mathematically and it’s a different feeling. Here, with no thoughts in my mind, just free to drive, to win the race, the happiness is better.

Q: Tell us about the start, Giancarlo nearly got you there.
FA: Yeah, Giancarlo had a better start. Probably the reaction time was not great for me and for sure, Giancarlo started better this time and I was lucky to defend the position from the inside line and to get first position thanks to Giancarlo, also in the first corner. It’s always better to fight with your team-mate than with any other driver.

Q: Then you did a short first stint but quite a long final stint.
FA: Yeah, the strategy played well today. It was a little different to Ferrari this time. I think it worked OK because we had pole position, we had a gap after the first stint when we were lighter and then we controlled the gap, more or less, so I’m quite happy.

Q: What animal were you copying on your car at the end?
FA: It’s a secret. It’s not an animal, either.

Q: Michael, you’ve been quite confident this weekend, so when did you realise you didn’t have the necessary pace?
MS: Basically when I had free air and couldn’t really make up enough ground.

Q: That was after Giancarlo’s pit stop?
MS: Yeah, although I wasn’t that close behind him before the first pit stop, so already there it seemed very difficult. But then we obviously knew that maybe later in the race, with a better set of tyres, it may work out differently. But I still had the option and possibility to close down but as we couldn’t do it in the second stint, we couldn’t really make any real impression and win any ground in terms of lap time, so it was clear it would be difficult.

Q: But you had at least overtaken Giancarlo?
MS: Sure. Knowing that I was so close behind him and saw him going in reasonably early, compared to what we could do, it was sort of clear although I almost lost it because I had a little moment in one of the corners, in those important laps, had a bit of traffic, so there were a couple of factors that didn’t really help, but I still made it.

Q: So it was a little bit tight to come out ahead of him.
MS: Yeah, because of the issues I just mentioned; normally it would have been a bit more clear.

Q: Obviously second place was not where you hoped to be, but only losing two points is not so bad.
MS: Yeah, that’s the way you have to see it. You have to understand that you can’t win every race. At certain moments those guys are better than us and maybe at other moments it will be the other way around. It’s a long year to go. We will keep on fighting.

Q: Giancarlo, How close were you to overtaking Fernando at the first corner?
GF: It was close, but it was just the first corner so…It was important to get through the first corner and carry on in the first two positions for us and that as done. I got a good reaction time, better than Fernando, but its okay. I’m happy. Q: What prevented you from staying ahead of Michael at the first stop?
GF: Obviously I was pushing and we were able to be a little bit quicker than him. Obviously I was a little bit lighter then the Ferraris. I think the car balance was little difficult in the rear end and a bit unstable in high-speed corners and the grip wasn’t great to push very hard. Apart from that it was a good race and just after the first pit-stop, when I was behind Michael and my engineers called me in turn three and I lost control of the car and went into the gravel. That was a critical part of the race.

Q: You were talking about the car not having fantastic grip or whatever. Was that in the first stint or did it change after you went off in the gravel?
GF: No, no. Already in the beginning of the race I was pushing, but not 100 per cent because it wasn’t comfortable enough to do that. Maybe after the exit I lost some piece but not sure.

Q: It didn’t change that much?
GF: No, not that much.

Q: (Salvatore Zanca – Associated Press) Fernando, what’s the one thing you remember about today and what did the King say to you when he handed you the trophy?
FA: The thing to remember today is a little bit of everything. The lap I did with the king in the car this morning with all the people enjoying seeing us together, and then the start, the first lap, then Michael coming out of the pits behind me. I think the people realised I was still leading the race so the next two laps were everything blue in the grandstand moving, jumping and for sure the last two laps, the emotion I have in the car. And finishing the race, so a little bit of all. With the King, nothing really, just a little bit of congratulations, a nice race and normal things in the podium

Q: (Fritz-Dieter Rencken – The Citizen) Michael, the incident where you say you nearly lost it. Was that at turn seven or was it somewhere else?
MS: Turn seven.

Q: (Mathias Brunner – Motorsport Aktuell) Michael, you were so confident yesterday of the race pace – it’s hard to believe where the pace went. Are we talking about a tyre problem here because the car apparently worked fine?
MS: I don’t believe it’s fair to blame anything on one area without studying, because, as you quite rightly say, in qualifying, if you put a bit of maths in, I would have been two or three tenths quicker than the pole position time, so it would have been reasonably possible to achieve that, but, all the long runs we did on Friday and Saturday were very quick and quite good. In the race we just weren’t able to quite match it in this situation for whatever reason. We have been here for testing in the winter, it’s sometimes a wind direction change, a temperature change or whatever, could just trigger things to shift one or the other way. We’ve seen it in the past and we’ve seen it in the last test we did here and maybe that’s what happened today. Obviously I’ve just been in the car and not been able to analyse what’s happened. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, I just know that its not what happened before.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Deutschland) Fernando and Michael, normally this track shows the real performance of the cars. If you look at all the other cars, they are a whole way behind you. Are you surprised at that?
FA: I am a little bit surprised, yes, because the last two races was only a fight between Ferrari and Renault and no-one has come in really strongly. Sometimes they show potential in the tests, sometimes on Fridays, sometimes in qualifying, but in the races the fight has been, at least in the last two races, between Ferrari and Renault. I think though that they can come back, especially McLaren and I’m pretty sure before later they will fight with Ferrari and Renault too.

Q: (Mike Doodson) To Michael & Fernando, the two of you have dominated this season and given us lots of pleasure. But both of your successes have been the results of team-work. Do you ever think of the prospect of having a straight race between you? Does that prospect appeal to you?
MS: So you want us to go back to go-karts? I think in any kind of motor racing, you have to rely on the team. It’s the nature of our sport – that team element and it’s a very interesting one, to me at least. Even in go-karts, you have to have a package. It’s not like playing tennis or soccer, no, even in soccer, you have to have the team.

FA: I agree.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Michael, when Alonso made his first pit stop, the gap was about 12 seconds and when you came out, the gap was similar. At that point, did you still have hopes to win the race?
MS: For me, I only start to give up when I see no sense. Most of the time that is on the last lap. Knowing the nature of the circuit where you have basically no chance to overtake, in particular if you are not quick enough. I had to give up after the last pit-stop. I drove home from then.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Giancarlo, yesterday you were saying you want to go for victory. After this race, what is your feeling for the rest of the season?
GF: It’s a good feeling. I have a great team and a great car and the potential of the car to improve and today I was slightly slower than Fernando and Michael maybe, but apart from that I proved I had a chance to win again like in Malaysia. I’m confident for that.

Q: (Juha Paatalo – Financial Times Deutschland) Giancarlo, how do you explain the almost half a minute difference between you and Fernando today?
GF: Just at the beginning, Fernando was able to go a bit quicker than me. And was just more comfortable, I was struggling a little bit with the grip and was not confident to push 100 percent. That’s all.


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