SPIELBERG, Austria, AFP
An embarrassed looking Michael Schumacher defended Ferrari’s tactics after his controversial Austrian Grand Prix victory here Sunday.
Four-time world champion Schumacher looked to be heading for second place behind team-mate Rubens Barrichello until the Brazilian was ordered to pull aside and let the German through near the chequered flag.
Disgruntled fans booed the Ferraris as they returned to the A1 Ring paddock and whistles greeted the victory ceremony as Schumacher ushered Barrichello onto the winner’s spot on the podium.
But while Schumacher admitted he had taken no pleasure from the victory – his first ever in Austria – he later defended Ferrari’s tactics.
“I’m not very pleased about it. I don’t think either of us are honestly,” said Schumacher, who brushed off comparisons with last year’s race when Barrichello moved over to allow the German to finish second.
“Last year I was involved in the decision because I felt the championship was a lot tighter than it is this year,” he said.
“Before the race this year I was asked and I said I don’t believe there’s going to be a team strategy involved – then suddenly they told me he would move over.”
Yet though unhappy Schumacher said Ferrari’s strategy was in keeping with the team’s goal of securing the world drivers championship, his fifth world title.
“We have to look at what the team’s ambition is – and the team’s ambition is to win the championship and we have to secure this because you never know what’s going to happen in the next race.
“At the end of the day the decision comes from Ferrari.
“The team is investing a lot of money for one target. Imagine in the end if we lost the championship by this amount of points – how stupid would we look?
“We’ve always had this philosophy I think it’s known to everybody. Some people may like it, some people may not.
“I felt a little bit sorry today and I’m not really in favour of it,” added Schumacher, paying tribute to Barrichello.
“He’s been outstanding all weekend and this gesture shows the belief and relationship we have,” he said.
“Because it’s not natural what he has been doing – I’m grateful for the points but obviously I don’t take a lot of joy from the victory.”
Barrichello, who saw his existing contract with Ferrari extended by two years in the build-up, said he had not been bothered by the team orders.
“It’s a team decision – I’ve just signed a two-year contract and I think I must respect that,” he said.
“I’m going through a good period, a good time of my life. I’m becoming a better person and a better driver. There’s no point in arguing. Michael gave me the trophy at the end and I’m happy,” he said.