Michael Schumacher yesterday defended his younger brother, Ralf, following criticism of the latter's drive to second place in his wake in Canada a fortnight ago.
Speaking during his prepartions here for this weekend's Grand Prix of Europe, the world champion struck back at those who believed that his brother had not made a valid effort to overtake him. Schumacher Jnr qualified on pole on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve just outside Montreal and led until his brother took control after the first refuelling stop. They finished less than a second apart in first and second places, with the Ferrari driver taking his 68th triumph.
"I do not understand why people still don't comprehend what is going on," Schumacher Snr said. "Ralf simply never had a chance for an overtaking attempt. Overtaking has always been rather difficult when drivers are competing in cars on an equal level and no one is making a mistake.
"Even if you have a car with a potential advantage of one second per lap, you still cannot overtake. Ralf's car was not good enough out of corners and his top speed was not high enough for a promising manoeuvre.
"I think it's very simple, a lot of people talk without knowing what's going on, and you get criticism for something people shouldn't even make comment about. If I hear things like this, I don't feel very happy. And in Canada it was not just Ralf behind me, but Montoya behind Ralf, and Fernando Alonso behind him. It's all about how to create a story and make people look stupid, and that's what I don't like."
Schumacher Jnr defended himself by saying: "There has been talk about my driving for the last 18 months, and personally I don't understand that. Maybe people do comment where they shouldn't.
"Wherever it's been possible to overtake in the past, and it will be the same in the future, I will take the chance. In Canada there was never a chance. I was not even able to try, that's why I didn't. I'd rather take eight points than take two of us out."
So far this year he is the only driver to have finished in the points in all eight races. But he denied that points are more important to him than trying to overtake.
"We were concerned about reliability at the beginning of the year so that's a surprise, but if you want to win a championship, that's what should happen," he said. "But every race driver, if he sees an opportunity, will take it, but as long as I don't see one I won't try a stupid move. That's always been my way.
"Last year I got criticised for not being good in qualifying. Now I'm good in qualifying and instead I'm getting criticised for not being good in the race. So it doesn't matter anyway, does it?"
Schumacher Jnr has taken pole position for the last two races for BMW-Williams, and McLaren-Mercedes are also pushing Ferrari hard.
"As we keep winning races I'm not so concerned," Schumacher Snr said with a smile as the brothers contemplated another race in front of their enthusiastic countrymen. But he added that he had expected a tougher ride in 2003.
"I have kept saying since the beginning of season that the others are knocking on the door, so there is no need to be surprised now," the world champion said. "We are doing as high level a job as in the past, but the others have picked up. I cannot see Ferrari getting the margin we had last year. Simply in all areas, the other teams have raised their game."