AUSTRALIAN GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT

A bad day for Michael

Michael Schumacher, Australian GP 2003

Michael Schumacher, Australian GP 2003 

 Â© The Cahier Archive

Michael Schumacher was having a bad day...

From the start of practice on Friday Schumacher seemed less than at ease with his Ferrari. The car was quick but Schumacher did not seem to be his dominant self. With the re-interpreted Formula 1 regulations there were potentially any number of explanations for this. Michael might have been trying to go quickly with a very heavy fuel load in order to go for a certain strategy in the race.

The new rules mean that no-one knows how much fuel is in each car. In the old days everyone could run with the smallest amount of fuel possible in the cars during the qualifying session. This made for an exciting show. But as teams must now race the cars they qualify, with the same level of fuel that they had when they finished qualifying, things have become much more complicated. We will not know for certain who qualified with what fuel load until after the race has revealed the details. Race reporting has become a question of reverse engineering information. Taking the result and looking back at how it came about.

So on Friday and Saturday we did not know the strategies. Schumacher had been slower than normal on Friday, leaving Rubens Barrichello to be fastest. This Michael said was because he had been the "track cleaner" as the first man to run in the first qualifying session.

On Saturday Michael had a shocking day. The car was all over the place and he went off a couple of times before finally spinning and crashing into a wall. The impact was not massive but a lot of damage was done although Michael, being Michael, was able to drive the car around to the pits with its right front wheel in the air and the front wing rattlign along under the car. This gave the mechanics time to fix it up. Michael had to copy Barrichello's settings for the final qualifying session.

The session promised much and there was much excitement as the first cars began to run. Justin Wilson did an odd thing and headed for the pits at the end of his flying lap. Antonio Pizzonia had a bit of an off at Turn 5 and turned in a rather slow time. Jos Verstappen followed the same pattern as his team mate Wilson. And so it went on... with the pace gradually building. Ralf Schumacher who had made a mess of Friday was the first of the big runners to try to qualify. The result was a target time of 1m28.830s although it did not look as though that would last for long as Ralf ran over the first slightly at Turn 1, as he had done the previous day.

The local fans had dreams of Mark Webber beating Ralf in his Jaguar but Mark too was trying to find the balance between pushing too hard and going off and not pushing hard enough and being too slow. A wheel on the dirt meant that he came in half a second down on Ralf.

"It is really not easy," he explained. "It was a real balancing act. We had a car that was good in the final sector of the track but we were struggling for grid in the first part of the lap. It could have been better... but then it could have been worse. The format of one car running after another rather than all of them falling over one another to grab a time was a good idea but as the session went on people began to wonder whether the FIA's rule making teams race on the same fuel load as in qualifying was a good one. The drivers seemed somehow muzzled... unwilling to push too hard for fear of a crash. Giancarlo Fisichella came out and beat Webber and then Heinz-Harald Frentzen surprised us all with a lap which was six-tenths better than Ralf Schumacher's target time.

"The track was definitely getting quicker as the session went on," Ralf said, indicating that his problems on Friday had affected his grid position. Such is the nature of qualifying. You are threading not just one needle but two...

Frentzen's time remained the fastest for only a short time before Montoya knocked a tenth off it to claim the provisional pole but he too was running earlier in the order than one might have expected and it seemed unlikely that the time would survive. Teams scanned the skies looking for changes in the climatic conditions. A cloud casting a shadow could make all the difference. Jarno Trulli, Olivier Panis, Fernando Alonso, David Coulthard and Jenson Button all came and went but Montoya stayed on top and then out came Michael Schumacher.

"With the new qualifying format you just go out there and drive the car," he said. "There is no time to think about things like settings and fuel loads. You just do it."

It was, Schumacher admitted later, a "perfect lap" with the World Champion reckoning that he would not have done better. He was probably right. The time was nine-tenths faster than Frentzen's best and it came as a cold shower for all the high hopes that the teams had that the Ferraris might be caught this year. This let us not forget was the old Ferrari, not the new one.

There were three runners left: Jacques Villeneuve, Kimi Raikkonen and Barrichello. Villeneuve seemed to be rather more subdued than he had been 24 hours earlier when his fast lap was a thing of wonder. Then he had been right on the edge, winging it because of earlier engine trouble which left him without a proper set-up. That was Friday but on Saturday he seemed less inspired. The time was 1.3 secs slower than Michael.

"I am disappointed with my lap," he said. "It was nothing special."

There were two to run.

Raikkonen's hopes were slim for in the morning session he had crashed his car heavily in the high-speed section on the far side of the lake. The McLaren boys had the spare set up for him but it was nowhere near as good as his race car had been. But his race car was damaged and Kimi had to do his best with what he had. He was three-tenths down at the first split and from a position like that no-one comes back. He held the gap in the second sector but in the final part of the lap he hooked a wheel onto the dirt and nearly lost control. The lap was ruined and sao too wasx one of his tyres which had been punctured.

The job of beating Michael thus fell to Barrichello and the first split time was very close to Michae; Schumacher's best. In the second sector he lost a couple of tenths.

"I was not expecting to come across anything on the track," he said. "But there were warning flags, pieces of debris and Raikkonen touring slowly back to the pits. It was enough to give Rubens a moment of hesitation.

He crossed the line having done enough to be second. It was a Ferrari 1-2 and the two cars were nearly a second clear of the rest. It was a different format but the result was the same. Montoya was third.

Aside from the Ferraris it was an interesting grid for we had Frentzen fourth in his Sauber and Olivier Panis fifth in the Toyota. Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld, Jenson Button, Ralf Schumacher and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10. They were all covered by eight-tenths of a second. Who was running what? Who could tell?

Trying to find out about fuel loads was not easy but as the evening drew in it became clear that the Renaults were probably running with a heavy fuel load. Despite the lack of performance of the Renault V10 it was clear that the cars were very good.

"We have made a huge leap forward with the aerodynamics," said the team's technical director Mike Gascoyne. "We have gained something between one and a three-quarters and two seconds over last year's car just from aerodynamics."

A massive figure.

But down at BAR they were happy as well with Villeneuve saying that the car is the best he has driven since 1997.

The Saubers and Panis looked like men with light fuel loads. The second Toyota with Cristiano da Matta was back in 16th and looked as though there was another strategy for him. McLaren's only strategy seemed to be to survive but with its cars 11th and 15th on the grid things did not look good.

The Minardi puzzle was however being solved as the team had decided to take an extraordinary gamble, taking advantage of a loophole that no-one else had considered. Minardi engineers concluded that the best thing for the team was to have the cars come in at the end of their qualifying laps and by doing so fail to set a time. This meant that the cars did not have to go into parc ferme but could start the race.The advantage was that the team could work on the cars overnight, could change the fuel load and this would play into their hands of the weather changed.

"If we get a wet start tomorrow - and the chances of that happening are 30-35% - then it may work out in our favour," said team boss Paul Stoddart. "We have nothing to lose. We double-checked the regulations and we are confident that we were not breaching any rule but be sure we will not be doing this at every race."


UNILATERALS:


POST QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE - 08/03/2003

1. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1m27.173s

2. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRAI), 1m27.418s (+ 0.245s)

3. Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), 1m28.101s (+ 0.928s)


UNILATERALS:

Question: Michael I think it has been exciting for everyone to watch, but a little confusing. Let's ask how it went yesterday, how has it been going and how it lead to pole today?

Michael Schumacher: Well obviously it didn't start perfectly for me yesterday. I wouldn't think I had the best set up. Rubens had done a much better job in that area and I just simply copied - and that is what team-mates are there for, to help the other out when he is in trouble - and it worked out very well for me taking his set up and it worked out well for me today.

Q: Yesterday you described yourself as a bit of a street-cleaner going out when you did and leading the world championship, of course, and today it was a completely different deal. What did you think about the one lap qualifying and what was going through your mind and how difficult is it for the team to adapt to that new pressure situation?

MS: I guess it is far more difficult to adapt for the team because to adapt to the time frame we have to work currently when things are very tight and as you can see we finished the warm-up at 2.45 and at three o?clock everything has to be ready for the race and then it is very tricky and there are certain things and I guess some adaptation will be necessary for the future, but in general I shouldn't complain. It is the same for anyone. For me, in the car, it is no different because when you concentrate and you do your lap whatever the situation is whether you have four opportunities or you have one, you concentrate for it and I don't have the feeling it did anything to me.

Q: It looked like a very clean lap. Does that mean you had a little margin because it was only a one-lap burst?

MS: No, I think it was a lap spot on. I don't think I had any margin left to push further.

Q: Rubens, it looked like there was a bit of trouble there with Kimi Raikkonen on the circuit in front of you and debris coming from his McLaren?

Rubens Barrichello: Yes, it was the only problem I had really this weekend. We have new rules and new everything and you have to accommodate yourself for what you see. I was pretty much prepared and the car felt good. I came out of turn six and I had this flag which was the one warning of debris or oil on the track and it took my attention away a bit. I felt I could have pushed a little harder because of that and there were pieces on the track and the car was still running. So in a way I cannot complain because that is it but I felt I could have done a little bit better after being on top all weekend.

Q: How much does having to race the car you are qualifying effect the way you look at the fuel strategy andthen the race strategy now?

RB: It is a new thing altogether and in a way it is less exciting than it used to be, in qualifying, to be honest, because we're not on the fuel level we used to have and we used to push the car further. I mean you have to be really flexible with the car. We were over-steering on many points on the circuit so it is a compromise for the new rules.

Q: Juan Pablo, a nice clean run from you too - what was the car like?

JPM: It was alright. In the warm-up I had a couple of scares in turn one and I did two laps and I went off twice. I came in and I said what have you done to the car. It had become basically undriveable. And we had a look and found the problem and we changed it and then I took it a bit easy through the first corner because I didn't want to go off there and apart from that I had a bit of understeer at high speed, but it was pretty good and I think the guys in the team did a fantastic job. As Michael said, the guys did a fantastic job because 10 minutes before they were still working on the car. So, for me, it is pretty interesting and it should be a pretty good race tomorrow with car being very consistent.

Q: What is your verdict on one-lap qualifying so far?

JPM: It's good. I am sure sometime you are going to blow it and be 15th on the grid. Look at Kimi, it happened to Kimi today. It could happen to anybody. But I think it's good. You've really got to get the best out of yourself in one lap.

Q: You've got the new Williams FW25 BMW here. How do you feel about that?

JPM: It's good. I'm P3. I think the car needs a lot of work, yes, and there is no lies about that. It has improved a lot over the winter, but I think there is a lot more to come from the car.

Q: And Michael, there is still life in the old Ferrari yet?

JPM: Tell me about it!

MS: Yeah. But it's a question of how good is an old Ferrari against a new Ferrari and that is something we still have to answer.

Q: You had a bit of an off yesterday and you had a bit of an off a couple of years ago at the Australian Grand Prix. Is that the start of the season or is it the way things happen?

MS: The off was actually today, but my engineers they came along and they said they were worried because I hadn't had an off so far! It seems to be a tradition for me to have an off here and finally it happened and from that moment things started to go well.

Q: Is it a tradition or does it just take a little bit of time to get used to it all?

MS: Obviously no-one does it on purpose, but you push and you sometimes over-do it and as we are on a street circuit if you over-do it it is easy to hit the walls. But here in Melbourne they have done a fantastic job in terms of the run-off area and I probably should say a big thank-you to Mr Ron Walker who has just improved his run-off areas significantly otherwise I would have been big-time into the wall. Probably not only myself so a lot of safety improvements have been done for the good.

Q: You have a lot of experience. What is your take on the new regulations and on the new qualifying in particular?

MS: Well, I think we should pass on the whole weekend and then see where we are. There is no point to judge right now before the race.

Q: New Williams. Old Ferrari. When is the new Ferrari going to race?

MS: We hope as soon as possible but obviously we want to make sure it is reliable, so it depends on that when it is. You remember last year things looked very good for us after the race and everybody thought well no way can anyone beat Ferrari and then we went to Malaysia and everything was the other way around. So I would be careful and wait and go to Malaysia and see what happens and get some experience and later on see what is the reality. Those guys at Williams and McLaren also have lots of room to improve.

Q: How do you feel now with your car in parc fermee and you cant do anything now until the race starts tomorrow?

MS: It feels odd because now we have all the time in the world, but we can't do anything on the car. So it is strange.

Q: Any safety issues with that.

MS: I don't think I want to get into that right now. Its really too early and you should really take the experience and see whatever you find and there could be an issue with weather conditions suddenly changing from dry to wet weather, but maybe first we should wait for the experience to see if it is or not.

PRESS CONFERENCE:

Q: Michael, well done. A lot of the time seemed to come in the third sector, where did that come from?

MS: I think that I did almost the same lap time in the third sector, is that correct? I think it's been the same thing in the past, as well, not only this year. Maybe it's to do with the tyres, maybe it's to do with the car, I don't know.

Q: This morning when you went off, presumably they repaired that car, did it feel absolutely perfect when you went out in the warm-up?

MS: Yes, no problem. We had to work on the car to make final changes after the warm-up, yes.

Q: What's it like going out when you've made some changes, but you're not awfully certain how they are going to affect the car?

MS: You don't have time to think about it because everything happens so quickly, you're in such a rush that you don't get on top, everything happens and you just go out and drive.

Q: Do you think the new regulations are more enjoyable for TV viewers and spectators, and if so, why?

MS: I haven't spoken to anyone, I don't know.

Q: Rubens, what are your feelings about that question, is it more enjoyable for TV spectators?

RB: In a way, yes, but on a track like this, where you know that towards the end, the track is probably a little bit cleaner than before, then I think spectators are always waiting for an improvement but I certainly feel that it's more enjoyable than before.

Q: Was your lap a good one, apart from obviously coming across Kimi Raikkonen?

RB: Yes, it was going quite well, but you're so focussed on that lap, you're so concentrated on that and all of a sudden I saw the flag and to be honest with you, it took my attention away. It won't change much, now, I'm second and I'm happy with that. We have the two cars on the front row, but you have a clean lap, you don't have traffic any more, there's only you on the race track, then all of a sudden, boom, you have a flag, so what was I to do? It's new. I wasn't expecting anything like that. There were bits of car in the middle of the track and the car was still running so it was a bit of a mess to be honest because I felt that the car was too good to be doing 27.4s. I felt that a better time would be on the cards.

Q: You said you were happy with it, you've been quicker than Michael all weekend, then he pinches your settings and goes quicker than you. Is there a bit of disappointment to that?

RB: No, not really, no. We're a team, we work together, it happens to me, it happens to him, it's not a problem. What did disappoint me are the new rules, we may need to revise them, because that thing with the tyre flying about and that stuff was just a bit odd. We need to maybe give a chance to everyone to run cleanly. Everything thing was running pretty cleanly until I came on the track.

Q: If you?d found him in the middle of a corner, that might have been completely different.

RB: When I saw the flag and I didn't see any car at all and then all of a sudden he was there, it didn't bother me because he was on the right side, he let me by, it was the bits of car in the middle of the track which affected me a little.

Q: Juan Pablo, up from 11th to third, a bit of a surprise?

JPM: No, this morning the car was really good, we did very good overnight with the car. This morning it was very consistent and competitive with a lot of fuel and it was good.

Q: You said they changed your car a lot after the warm-up, how did you cope with that?

JPM: It's alright. We had quite a few problems in the warm-up. I did two laps and I went off twice in turn one. I couldn't really understand. We came back, found the problem, fixed it and went into qualifying. I'm very happy, I've got to say, P3, yesterday was a bit of a struggle but today everything worked really well and it paid off.

Q: Frank said the approach had been conservative yesterday. Was it less conservative today?

JPM: A little bit. You know, you try to find solutions and we did. Yesterday we were based on what we went on in testing and it didn't seem to work well, so we changed everything and it was good.

Q: Do you think the new qualifying format is better for spectators and TV spectators?

JPM: I think it's much better on Saturday, but I think Friday is boring because after the first five cars run, everyone goes slower. Unless Michael or Rubens breaks down, they would be last or one of the last cars to go in Malaysia would make it interesting, but apart from that, it's just where they queue.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:

Q: How different was the set-up of cars compared with the old qualifying procedure, where were we on fuel in terms of tactics tomorrow and indeed, can you give us some insight into pit stop strategy?

MS: It's better if you go in the garage and see the computer and talk to the engineers, they will explain you everything.

Q: OK, is that an invitation?

MS: Not from me. Obviously nobody wants to get into details on this subject.

JPM: Qualifying is completely different because you've got a lot of fuel on board, so in a way it's a big compromise as to what the car is going to do on low fuel as opposed to high fuel, so that's a compromise. I think something that makes it quite interesting is that you've got to plan the race before you qualify. We could have planned the race to start tenth, but I'm third. They've already decided when they're going to stop and we've already decided when we're going to stop and that's going to make it quite interesting in the race, because you got to wait and see what everybody does but it's going to make it quite a lot more exciting.

RB: The only thing I can comment on is the fact that the car is a lot different from the old qualifying because as Juan Pablo said, you have to compromise a lot so, as I said, now you don't go to the limit, you go to the very limit of the car that you're driving right now but it's quite a different car to the old days because you carry a lot of fuel.

Q: The Minardis came straight in so that they don't have to go to the parc fermé, are they allowed to add fuel?

JPM: That puts them last on the grid?

MS: I don't know, probably yes.

MC: You're probably asking the wrong people really. (Laughter) They know how to drive, not run the car.

MS: I'm a bit more clever than that (laughter)

MC: You usually know these things Michael?

MS: Yes, but this is a very detailed question which is a bit fresh.

Q: How important was the starting order this afternoon?

MS: (Misunderstanding the question) Naturally you have to find the right compromise in finding the right fuel level, a set-up which allows you to be reasonable in qualifying and again, good enough for the race because if you just work for one it will not pay out for the other, so that's the compromise you have to take. Where is the compromise, where is the right compromise? That's something, because everything is so new, it's a bit open and it's experience we have to take from now on and see what teams are going to do and from the next races.

(Now understanding the question). I think today the starting order was less important due to the fact that we had this mini-warm-up just before and within 15 minutes after the first car could run, because when I went out, and I was one of the first cars to be out and try to do a time, it was very difficult, the circuit was almost like yesterday, being out the first, because after all these Formula Fords and saloon car races there was a lot of dust on the circuit so it took some cleaning up, but by the time we finished the warm-up I guess that the circuit was in good condition.

JPM: I didn't run at the end so I don't know. I'm sure the later you run it's going to be better because there's more rubber, but I don't think it's like it used to be because before you had 20 cars, four runs, 80 laps, now it's only 20 but it will improve a little bit but not massively.

RB: Nothing really, I was only the last one, not the middle one.

Q: Broadly speaking the grid line-up is not all that different after all these chances. Is this a lot of fuss about nothing? Or can we expect a big change tomorrow?

MS: Honestly, I don't think anyone expect a whole different scenario and suddenly Ferrari being in midfield because of the rules, although, because of the rules and because of the mistakes you can do, it can easily happen, but in actual fact, we are professional enough to try and achieve the maximum performance, and I think that's what has generally has happened. On the other hand, if you look at where David and Kimi ended up, I guess that was a factor of this new procedure, because had they had other qualifying laps available, I guess they would have been further up on the grid and the same with my brother.

Q: Don't you think people don't understand completely? It's like Fridays last year. We don't understand how many kilos you have in the car?

MS: I guess you were responsible for it. You wrote so many stories how boring Formula One is, so (laughing) now you have to live with it!

JPM: You understand how it works, yes? It's not up to us to transmit to the people how it works, it's up the press to transmit it, that's what Michael is trying to say basically.

MS: Not quite'maybe I should speak Spanish.


Ferrari:

Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:27.173): "Good teamwork today, as after my problems in the morning, I took Rubens's settings for the afternoon. Qualifying went well, but the new timetable makes life tougher for the team, as, after the warm-up you have just 15 minutes to get ready for the qualifying and the race. I'm not complaining as it is the same for everyone. From my point of view in the cockpit, it is the same as always with the same level of concentration required. My lap was spot on with no margin to push more. It seems to be a tradition that I go off here! Luckily, the run-off area at that corner has been improved for this year and the team was able to repair the car without any problem."

Rubens Barrichello (2nd, 1:27.418): "Today's qualifying was the first time this weekend I have had a problem. I was on a good lap when I saw the oil/debris flags after Turn 6. With the new rules, you are supposed to be alone on the track, so I was not sure what to do and I lost concentration. Kimi's car was on the correct side of the track but there were bits of car on the road. I am not complaining, but I could have done a better time. Maybe we need to look at the rules concerning this type of situation. From a driving point of view I think this new qualifying is less exciting for the drivers because you cannot push as hard as in the past, because of the increased fuel levels which give you a lot of oversteer or understeer. But I think the new system might be more exciting for the spectators."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "Excitement, tension and joy are the words which best sum up this Saturday in Melbourne. Today we got a better insight into the effects of the new sporting regulations: the changing of components after free practice, a very hectic 15 minute warm-up and everything played out over just one lap. The final result is tempered by the uncertainty concerning fuel levels for each driver, which will be those on-board for the start of tomorrow's race. That aside, the F2002 again gave satisfaction with an all-red front row for the opening race of the season. Once again Bridgestone has done a great job on the tyre side, while Shell has worked hard to provide us with the very best products. Now, we must check the cars, within the limits set out by the new rules, in order to be ready for the race, where we will get a true picture of the pecking order. As usual, reliability will be a key factor."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "I am a bit surprised at the size of the gap between us and the competition. Of course, it could be the case that we had taken on less fuel than them. We will therefore have to wait until tomorrow to see where everyone really stands. Naturally I am delighted to have our cars on the front row. Our drivers did a really good job. The tyres performed better today, probably because the surface provided more grip. We opted for a tyre which might not have been quite so quick over a single lap, but is a safer choice for the race."

Williams-BMW:

Juan Pablo Montoya (3rd, 1:28.101): "I think it went pretty well, the car was working good. In the warm up I went off three times in the same place because the car was quite difficult to drive and different from what I had in practice as we had made a few changes. I was very annoyed about it but at the end of the day it wasn't that bad. It was a decent and reliable car and when I went to push it behaved pretty well. I lost a bit of time in turn one because I went off twice there earlier and you don't want to put the car on the grass in qualifying! But apart from that I seem to have put a reasonably good lap together."

Ralf Schumacher (9th, 1:28.830): "I made a mistake in the first sector which cost me a few tenths of a second. Today I have had to pay the price for my performance on Friday as this caused my early starting time when the track was not in its best condition. I am not too worried about the two Sauber cars in front of me, I think they can be sorted out in the race."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "Well, it could have been a lot worse. But it is difficult to say on what position you really are as you do not know how much fuel everybody has taken for qualifying. I think it will turn out tomorrow that we are on a similar fuel level as Ferrari. Obviously we are still quite away from them. We will do our very best to improve our performance."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "We are pleased with the result. This second qualifying went a lot better for our team than the first session on Friday. In today's free practice we managed to improve the set up of the cars. Juan Pablo made the most out of it, for Ralf it did not turn out that well. We feel well prepared for the race, even though it is difficult to say with how much fuel the other teams were running today. This we will not know before the first pit stops in the race and I would bet we will see a couple of surprises. I think the single lap qualifying is positive for Formula One, but the prohibition of refuelling does lead to a distorted impression."

McLaren-Mercedes:

David Coulthard (11th, 1:29.105): "Not the best start to the season. During the second practice session I suffered a puncture to the right rear tyre at turn one. I tried to make my way back to the pits but on the way the fuel pump failed just by the entry to the pitlane and we decided to commence our race preparation. The team did a great job in making the necessary repairs in time for warm-up and qualifying. On my flying lap I ran a bit wide in the first corner and with only one run there is no room for the slightest error."

Kimi Raikkonen (15th, 1:29.470): "Today's practice and qualifying was a real nightmare. I went off at Turn five in the first practice session and hit the wall sideways damaging the car. As a result I was unable to participate in second practice and had to use the spare-car for the warm-up and qualifying, and as a result of the new regulations, I will be using the spare car for tomorrow's race. Unfortunately I had another moment in the third sector of my qualifying lap and went on the dirt which consequently damaged my left rear tyre and I was unable to make it back to the garage."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "As we knew before the start of the one timed lap qualifying only error free runs would give the drivers competitive grid positions. After all our testing we know what the car is capable of and therefore it's understandably very frustrating to be starting from such poor grid positions. However it's a long race and with good teamwork we can still achieve respectable finishes."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Kimi was on his way to a possible first or second row grid position until he had a moment in the third sector. So we know that we can do better lap times in the race than our grid positions reflect. We now have to focus on tomorrow."

Renault:

Fernando Alonso (10th, 1:28.928): "Overall I am satisfied with my very first qualifying session. We do not know what fuel load the other teams had but we are quite happy with our choice of strategy. I am sure we will have an interesting race tomorrow and I am looking forward to it. "

Jarno Trulli (12th, 1:29.136): "This was a strange qualifying for me since the car, which had been very well balanced all weekend, in this session had huge understeering. Too bad, I expected a better result today but nevertheless I am optimistic for tomorrow, because the team has done a good job and I think we have taken the right decisions in terms of race strategy."

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "A very disappointing qualifying session today after our drivers made mistakes on their laps, costing us what should have been a possible second row position for both of them on the starting grid. Despite of that, we have been very quick all weekend, we believe we have a good strategy and I am confident we will be competitive for tomorrows race."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "A trouble free qualifying session from the engine point of view, however we are rather disappointed that neither car could finish a bit higher on the grid. I guess its a frustration which stems from this single-lap new format, which is something we will have to get used to. Anyway, after a very competitive weekend so far, we remain hopeful for tomorrows race."

Sauber-Petronas:

Heinz-Harald Frentzen (4th, 1:28.274): "My car was better balanced today, and overall I'm pretty happy. I couldn't get the second chicane quite right, but everywhere else the car felt really good. I won't know just how good though, until after the race!"

Nick Heidfeld (7th, 1:28.464): "I pushed the car to the limit without going off. It was a good lap, not perfect, but I am reasonably happy taking into account the track time that we've lost so far this weekend. The balance of the car was good and I got the most out of it."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Both Heinz Harald and Nick did a good job today and both were satisfied with the performance of the Sauber Petronas C22. As this is the first time that the new mode of qualifying has been used it will be exciting to see whether we have made the right decisions for the race. On today's result, we are satisfied that our strategy is working well."

Jordan-Ford:

Giancarlo Fisichella (13th, 1:29.344): "My lap was ok but we can see that there is quite a lot of work to do on the car in order to achieve our goal of qualifying inside the top ten. But it's also impossible to know what fuel loads other teams are running, so we will have to wait and see. We have worked hard to find a balance and set-up for the race and I just have to hope that we can make best use of the strategy we have planned for tomorrow."

Ralph Firman (17th, 1:31.242): "I got a good lap but the most important thing is I was able to get a feel for the car in preparation for tomorrow. It has a little bit of understeer but I think the balance is fine. We've done a lot of work so far this weekend and I feel pretty good about our preparations for the race. I am really looking forward to it and my objective will be to drive the best race I can and bring the car home."

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "We will have no idea until tomorrow where we really are compared to the other teams. We have done what we think is the best thing for the race. There have been a few surprises around the grid, for example you find McLaren 11th and 15th but then see an all-Ferrari front row. We'll just have to watch who pits first tomorrow and see what happens after that. We have done the best we can for our drivers, their way of driving and worked to find the best way to get a good result in the race. As such we have sacrificed today."

Martin Whitaker, Ford Director of Motorsport: "The new-style qualifying session is a significant development for the sport and this weekend is also important for Ford as it marks the return of its famous Blue Oval to Formula One. Tomorrow will see the debut of the Ford Cosworth RS name in Formula One with Jordan, an important development coming in the same week as the company announced the creation of Ford Team RS at the Geneva Motor Show."

Jaguar-Cosworth:

Mark Webber (14th, 1:29.367): "Qualifying was tough today and the new format is going to take some getting used to. Having spent this morning working on race set-up and tyre evaluation we went into qualifying with a good baseline for tomorrow's race. The team has done an excellent job working on the car and I could probably have squeezed a little more time out of the first sector today but nonetheless, I pleased with the second and third sector times. The midfield grid is extremely tight and tomorrow's race is a lottery right now - anything can happen. We have learned a great deal about the car over the past couple of days and combined with our approach and strategy thus far, I am quite satisfied with our position going into tomorrow's race."

Antonio Pizzonia (18th, 1:31.723): "I lost valuable track time this morning because of an issue with the brakes and in addition to the relatively short track time I had yesterday, my familiarization of this Albert Park circuit could be better. My qualifying lap was clean and I didn't make any mistakes although it is difficult to know how hard you can push the car at a circuit you are completely new to. Given the significantly heavier fuel loads on-board, the lap times today will not be truly understood until tomorrow's race gets underway. It is extremely difficult to know what anyone else is doing strategy-wise and subsequently, it is impossible to know where exactly we stack up in the order. The planned program we had in place has been achieved and I am now focusing my efforts on being fully prepared for my first ever Grand Prix."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "A pleasing qualifying session and good performances from both drivers today. It goes without saying but each team ran their cars today in accordance to their race strategies tomorrow and with that in mind, there is still a huge degree of uncertainty as to where we really sit relative to our competition. Nonetheless, we are satisfied with the way our build-up has gone although Antonio could have done with more track time going into the race. This has undoubtedly made life a little more difficult for our rookie driver. The gap between the midfield teams is very small indeed and how it pans out in the race is anyone's guess right now. We will continue doing our homework this evening in an effort to fine-tune our planned strategy but at this stage, we are happy with the performance of both cars and drivers."

BAR-Honda:

Jacques Villeneuve (6th, 1:28.420): "6th position is a good place to start the race. Our strategy is sound and very realistic so we're still looking good for tomorrow; we should be up there at the front for the battle. I'm just disappointed with my lap because it wasn't very special. After this morning's practice, reliability will be a bit of a worry but we can still fight for the podium so that's what we have to try and do."

Jenson Button (8th, 1:28.682): "It's difficult to know where we stand compared with everybody else but I'm pretty happy with 8th position. It's a good place to be starting the first race of the season. We weren't able to get many laps in during practice this morning but the car was working quite well then nonetheless. We had the 15-minute warm-up when the wind picked up and it felt like a completely different car to drive in qualifying; it felt very twitchy. It wasn't a great lap and like everyone else there was room for improvement. We're starting from a points-scoring position though so I'm still feeling confident for the race."

David Richards, Team Principal: "After what has been a very hard weekend for the entire team, we have to be satisfied with 6th and 8th on the grid. With the cars now in parc ferme, everyone's looking forward to getting a good night's sleep. It's difficult to predict everyone's strategy for tomorrow's race but on the face of it we're looking pretty good and should be able to challenge for the podium if everything goes according to plan."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "It's been a very interesting qualifying session. It's a little difficult to read what's gone on but we're reasonably pleased. We achieved our lap time targets and we have a good strategy for the race. Both drivers completed fairly tidy laps and they seem quite happy. We can't do anything to the cars now so we'll have to hope that all our preparation pays off. From these positions we're looking good for the race if we can stay reliable."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Having started the weekend with a troubled session I consider today's result to be very good. The team did a great job preparing the cars in time and the drivers pushed hard to secure sixth and eighth on the grid. Obviously we don't know what strategy all the other teams are on for the race, but starting from the third and fourth row puts us in a strong position. As a counter measure to yesterday morning's problem both drivers are using the engine we ran for the majority our winter test programme."

Minardi-Cosworth:

Jos Verstappen (No Time): "We elected not to complete our run on purpose this afternoon. It was a strategic call, and I think a very good one. By not finishing, we start from the back of the grid, but it also means we can continue to work on the cars tonight. We will therefore have the benefit of adjusting the cars to whatever the conditions may be tomorrow."

Justin Wilson (No Time): "It is a strategy we chose to follow. We knew the likelihood was that we would qualify toward the back of the grid anyway, so we concentrated this morning instead on getting a better balance in the chassis with our tyres, We made progress in that area, so we'll see tomorrow how our strategy works out. All in all, an interesting day."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "Today's qualifying session for the European Minardi Cosworth team was all about strategy. With limited testing - indeed, only one session for each car prior to Melbourne - and the sort of reliability issues that are to be expected without the benefit of a winter testing programme, the decision was taken today to start both Minardis from the back of the grid for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix. This is to allow the team's mechanics to give us our best possible opportunity to finish the race, but perhaps most importantly, to allow us the latest possible opportunity of assessing the likely race conditions, and thus planning our strategy accordingly. Both Justin and Jos have put in superb performances so far this weekend, bearing in mind their comparative lack of time in the PS03. We are now all looking forward to an enjoyable, season-opening Grand Prix tomorrow."

Toyota:

Olivier Panis (5th, 1:28.288): "I am really happy about the performance of the car and its nice to be up the front end of the grid in my race debut for the team. I think we did a good job this morning to compare the Michelin tyres and I think we made a good choice. Now we have to wait until tomorrow to see how we go in the race. Everybody worked really hard and at the end of the day this was a positive qualifying, so I would like to thank every single member of the team here and in Cologne."

Cristiano da Matta (16th, 1:29.538): "We had a problem with the clutch in the session before, which meant I couldn't do the warm-up. That was not the perfect situation, but the team did a fantastic job to fix the problem in time for my qualifying lap. I was expecting a clear run for my single lap, so I was surprised to see a car right in front of me. Psychologically it slows you down a little bit. Anyway, both Olivier and myself were on different strategies and I still think we can challenge for points tomorrow."

Keizo Takahashi, General Manager, Car Design and Development: "A very satisfying result for the entire Panasonic Toyota Racing team. Olivier made a good lap so we are very happy and it is our best qualifying result in only the first race of our second season in F1. We made a different strategy for both drivers today, and Cristiano also did a good job in difficult circumstances. The race will certainly be interesting tomorrow."

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