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China GP: Post Race press conference

NEWS STORY
01/10/2006

Michael, what a day, what a win, from sixth on the grid and after nine laps, 22 seconds behind the leader.
Michael Schumacher: Yeah, quite an exciting and extreme weekend, being pretty much competitive in the dry on Friday, then came to the qualifying, suddenly a downpour, and almost didn’t make it into the first ten. Finally got into sixth which was vital, obviously, to start the race. We had a reasonable pace to start with. I could at least keep up with the guys in front and slowly overtake and then our tyres started to work because, as we saw in Hungary already, at different stages of the race we were certainly slower or quicker. Then we found the right moment to change to dry tyres and luckily I had enough of a gap to drive home safely.

Your pace on the intermediates, even before you switched to dries, was just phenomenal. That’s effectively what won the race. Talk us through that phase of the race.
MS: It was a gamble to stay on the tyres because it’s very difficult to see in what state the tyres are while you’re driving so you have to gamble and judge what you’re going to do. So we decided on the option to stay on the same tyres which worked perfectly fine and it was the right moment to change because they were just about to lose performance and it got too dry for them and then we obviously had the option to pit and change to dry tyres.

And a great pass on Giancarlo when he had switched to dry tyres going into turn one there, and then pressure from Fernando at the end with the storm clouds building again.
MS: First of all, concerning Giancarlo, it was clear that turn one would be difficult because I had a moment there and I knew from practice that several drivers spun off so I took it reasonably easy, but even that was almost too fast so I was thought there could be an issue with Giancarlo and there was so I got that opportunity to dive in and that won the race. Afterwards it was obviously turning down the rpm and driving it home safely, with some doubts, obviously, because in between there were some drops of rain a couple of times and when you’re in such a comfortable position, you sort of have to weigh up and judge how much risk you want to take. Obviously I decided to play it safe.

Fernando, no doubt a frustrating day for you: that large lead in the early phase of the race and it all changed for you when you changed the fronts at the first pit stop.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, we had a good start and a good 15 or 20 laps and then we decided to change the front tyres because it was nearly a slick tyre, the left front, and that didn’t turn out to be a good thing to do because Giancarlo and Michael left their tyres and they caught me really quickly, and the gap disappeared. After that, we were at a disadvantage. We took the risk, we obviously pitted and we tried to put on dry tyres to try and find a miracle but it was too late.

There was a period just after that first pit stop when you were doing 1m47s, quite off the pace. What was going on with the car at that point?
FA: Well, you really need to lose the groove of the tyre. In the conditions we were running, you need a slick tyre, you don’t need any groove from the intermediates, so these eight or nine laps were the laps that the intermediates took to wear out all the rubber.

And I suppose it’s not a consolation but you got fastest lap when you were chasing Michael in the closing stages; you were really quick at that point.
FA: Well, no consolation but I think that the weekend has been fantastic. We have to look at the positive aspects. Unfortunately the race conditions were the only ones in which we weren’t particularly quick. When it started to dry out, you didn’t know if intermediate or dry tyres would work. In wet conditions we were much quicker and I think we were in dry conditions as well, looking at our tyres on Friday. So we have confidence for the last two races, but one opportunity lost.

Giancarlo, a strategy race for you: it looked as though you were playing a very good team role early in the race there, holding up various cars behind you, but equally very quick when you needed to be.
Giancarlo Fisichella: Yeah, at the beginning of the race I was a little bit heavier than everyone else and I was struggling a little bit with the grip but I was just trying to keep the car on the ground and to keep a good pace. After the pit stop, I decided to keep the same set of tyres, and when as soon as I got back on the circuit, the car balance was good, the grip level was good and I was able to be competitive on the circuit. Then obviously we went onto dry tyres and it was quite difficult, there was very poor grip and we decided to drop the revs and to save the engine for the next race. Anyway, third is a good position for me because I am finally third in the drivers’ championship too.

How bad was the car on that first lap when you switched to dries at the end?
GF: Ah yes. Quite difficult, especially when I went into turn one and I was very cautious there but in spite of that, I lost the rear end and I went onto the wet a bit so Michael was able to come and overtake me easily.

Michael, two races to go in more senses of the words than one, 116 points each for you and Fernando.
MS: Yes, looking back some while ago, it’s a quite a miracle that we’re there, but thanks to great work from everybody we managed it and now we go to the last two races and I believe that we will have to wait until the last one before a decision can be reached and yes, it’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks that we are going to have to face. I really look forward to that.

Press Conference

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