SPANISH GP - FRIDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT

Schumacher fastest in new F2003-GA

Michael Schumacher, Spanish GP 2003

Michael Schumacher, Spanish GP 2003 

 © The Cahier Archive

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - MAY 2, 2003

DRIVERS: Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), David COULTHARD (MCLAREN), Ralph FIRMAN ( JORDAN ), Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS) and Justin WILSON (MINARDI)

Q: To you all, the FIA have just announced that traction control is not going to be banned in 2004, but launch control and fully automatic gearboxes will be. Could I have a reaction from you?

David COULTHARD: It makes bugger-all difference. Don't think that it's different to pull the paddle, so whether it's done automatically or the driver does it... The only thing it does do is maybe if the driver makes a little mistake and is distracted then he might shift early or late and lose a bit of straight-line speed, so it could have some influence on the ability to race. But I think traction control being left is generally - if you listen to the drivers - we all agree that there are some really good safety issues with running TC (traction control). And what happens is, with traction control, you just drive the car harder on entries to the mid-corner. There's a thing with a few ex-Grand Prix drivers where they feel that it should be removed because a fundamental part of driving is obviously control and your right foot, but you still have an influence over how the performance of your car is even with TC because it's not as simple as getting to the apex and going to full power. If you do that and use more traction control because you've gone on the power too early, then you cut cylinders which affect your acceleration down the next straight. You use more TC, the barrels are open, the fuel's going in, you use more fuel, so there are still certain skills that we are all aware of as drivers that ex-drivers and maybe people who haven't driven aren't aware of, so taking it away isn't fundamentally going to change who is at the front, and there's still a lot of skill involved in trying to get the maximum out of TC as it sits.

Rubens BARRICHELLO: I would like to get a bit more information about it. It's better to wait and check. I've been quite focused on setting up the car and I haven't had a chance to see that. I think the drivers should be involved in that decision in a way. The drivers should get involved in all the decisions because we are the ones who drive so I wouldn't mind getting a little bit earlier to some place and saying yes or no for something that we feel like.

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: I knew about it this morning or last night, I think, somebody mentioned it. It's the same for everybody. It's a good thing, I think, that the electronics are still there because you're never going to have the question ?are they cheating, what are they doing?' That way, everybody's got full electronic things but to use the clutch at the start, I think, is a good thing because there's a chance for mistakes. Now it's all up to the car, not up to the driver. Paddle shift doesn't make any difference.

Ralph FIRMAN: Very similar to Juan, really. I think off the start would be good to maybe have a clutch start, maybe more opportunity to overtake or be overtaken, one or the other. But the paddle shift doesn't make any difference, just pulling or pushing a lever.

Justin WILSON: No further comment really. It's all been said already. We've been making manual starts since the start of the season so for us it won't make any difference.

Q: Justin and Ralph, what about your initial feelings about Formula One, after four races now?

Wilson: Obviously it's fantastic to be one of the drivers on the grid. It's been a lot of hard work to get here but we've just got to keep pushing forward, trying to improve. I wasn't totally happy with qualifying today so I will try and focus on tomorrow and improve that.

Firman: I'm obviously delighted to be here. Obviously Eddie gave me the chance this year which is great. The deal was done very very late so there's been only a handful of testing days this year and most of those have been hampered by rain as well. But I've had a good run so far. I feel I've been improving all the time. I've been a little bit unlucky in the first few races; in three of them I think we've had suspension failures or an engine problem last weekend and in Malaysia I had a good race and got to the end. I think today I'm only 0.3s off Giancarlo which is good so I'm improving all the time. I feel every weekend I gain another tenth, but maybe today is the first time that I've shown how quickly I've gone in qualifying, anyway.

Q: In fact you had a conventional test last week, didn't you?

Firman: Yes, the first test since the start of the season. The first day was good and then unfortunately it rained on the second day, but we did find a couple of things on the car, even though we had a lot more things to test on the second day which have helped myself and it was nice to have a test day away from a race meeting. When you're at a race meeting, you're always chasing times and when you go to a normal test you can concentrate more on doing your own thing and not, obviously, chasing times. That's another thing; because of lack of testing, now I'm doing everything in the public eye whereas lots of other people have had days and days of testing and been able to get all their mistakes out of the way in pre-season testing. But I haven't had that opportunity. But the team's been great and I'm working well with Dominic and Gary and going forward. It's working very well.

Q: Justin, how's the financing going? Are you almost up to target?

Wilson: Yeah, we've had a tremendous response and we're not far off the target now. We're up to one million and fifty thousand pounds as of last week. It's quite an amazing feeling to have that many people supporting you and wanting to be involved in a driver. It's been great.

Q: Are you feeling better here, that this is one of the circuits that you know?

Wilson: Yeah, we've been going quite well today. Unfortunately qualifying didn't go as well but in the test it was going good. I'm happier with the car from Imola. And like Ralph says, he's had a test day now to get used to things and settle in and as of yet, we haven't had one test day. We did the shakedown at the start of the season, just before Melbourne and that's it. It's just every other weekend drive the car, so all the time I'm feeling more and more comfortable, happy with the surroundings and able to find a bit more in the car.

Q: David, how do you feel about qualifying ninth today?

Coulthard: Well, naturally disappointed not to be closer to the front but the way the system is, to handicap those who are further up in the championship, everyone would agree the conditions were a little more dusty at the start after the Seats were out there running. Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful lap. A couple of small mistakes that cost some time but there wasn't much more that could be done in those conditions.

Q: How do you feel about the new car, are you pushing for that?

Coulthard: I don't think anyone in the team is not pushing to have the new car out and the sooner we can get that on track, because we believe it will be a quicker car, then the better the position we'll be in to continue winning Grands Prix. When you're waiting for something, it always seems to take longer but everyone's working as hard as they can.

Q: Got any idea when you might see it?

Coulthard: Well, we obviously have some ideas but there's no point in giving out a day because it may be earlier, it may be later. It just depends when it all comes together. It's a bit like a natural birth. You know, you have an idea when it's going to pop out but unless you can induce it, which you can't do with a Grand Prix car, it's just a case of when all the parts come together.

Q: You've got your new car, Rubens, how do you feel about it in race situation now?

Barrichello: Race situation, that's still to be discovered. It's something that we don't know. We've been putting in some mileage last week, finding out a little bit on the set-up and everything because the car got every piece not long time ago. It's been ready probably a month and a bit ago and then we decided not to take it to Imola so I really only had a chance to put it on and see the set-up just last week. But I'm confident. It's definitely a better car, they've done a fantastic job and everything and I'm quite happy.

Q: How did it go today; there was some suggestion you were in the spare car?

Barrichello: I drove the T-car. There was a small problem with my car and it was only very late that they decided that my car wasn't going to be ready, so I jumped into the T-car and there was a small confusion on the position of the pedals, they way I drive and the way Michael drives and when I got in the pedals were completely different. There was a time that I thought I wouldn't go out because there was a problem so for me it was a relief to put in a lap because even though today is nothing, it was actually quite fun to go out. I probably had five seconds to sit in the car and relax and go. So it was OK, the car feels good.

Q: Juan Pablo, 14 th today what was the problem?

Montoya: Loads of oversteer. You know, since we started today I had a lot of oversteer and no stability at high-speed and I haven't been able to cure it yet.

Q: It may seem extraordinary to people that having done over 900 laps, which is what you have done round here since November last year, that you still have a problem here. Why should that be?

Montoya: It is probably the worst set-up I've had over the winter. But what can you do?

Q: Was that just the change in conditions?

Montoya: Probably. All the time you come here and test it is very cold and I think that produces a lot of downforce and causes a lot of problems. Last year's test here the car here the car looked very competitive so I don't know... it's just not very good at the moment. Both Ralf and myself struggled with oversteer and hopefully tomorrow should be better.

Q: You had a fairly big accident at Silverstone last week I believe...

Montoya: Yeah kind of.

Q: What part did the HANS play in that does you feel?

Montoya: I think it helped a little bit with my head. I didn't hit the steering wheel or anything. I did feel it stop my head and it was pretty good.

Q: So you are pretty much in favor of it?

Montoya: You have to use it... especially when I hit the tires I thought it was pretty good. But I was a bit surprised to be underneath the tires. I think you are not meant to be underneath the tires when you have a belt, and actually the belt was on top of me. What can you do... nothing.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: Gentlemen, can I ask an Austrian question because it is the next race and presumably the last one... Are you looking forward to the Austrian Grand Prix and how sorry, or maybe not sorry, will you be to lose this race?

Coulthard: I've always gone well on that track. It's a funny little circuit to drive because there are not many corners, but usually it has given some interesting results in the races and incidents and I think it will be a shame not to have it on the calendar. From a track point of view it is not as great a loss, I'm afraid to say, as somewhere like Spa but as an event on the calendar my impression is that the local people have been very friendly, very welcoming and certainly I will miss having that on the calendar.

Barrichello: Like David said I think it is a great circuit for overtaking. If we have to take circuits away we should be looking at overtaking in the first place because we are missing that a little bit even though we are trying to improve. I think Austria is a circuit that you can choose to run some downforce and people choosing less downforce and it makes the racing interesting. Again as David said I go quite well there so it is sad to see it go.

Q: To David and Juan Pablo, how have you seen the new Ferrari?

Montoya: Red like always. The old one was quick, I'm surprised actually it should have been a lot quicker. I was expecting it to be a lot quicker here today. Probably they need more time but I was really expecting them to be quicker than they were today. I think they could have done the same lap time with the old car.

Coulthard: I think it is better to wait until after the race and then you can judge the weekend's performance. So far we've seen one hour and one lap. I haven't really seen too much of the cars and I haven't seen any mags to look at the comparisons. I wouldn't have known it was a different car visually from what I saw on the television. I'm not really studying...

Montoya: The cooling looks good.

Coulthard: Rubens designed that!

Q: Question to Rubens and Montoya. In the practice this morning we had Michelin tires in the first seven positions and then in the qualifying we saw Bridgestone tires first. What changed? The cars, the circuit?

Barrichello: In my opinion the Friday morning people to choose to set up the car to the qualifying on Friday and some choose for the Sunday so it makes completely no sense to check the times on a Friday morning. It is a small thing relative to Friday afternoon. Even though people might choose to run some fuel for whatever reason, I think Friday afternoon is more towards what the weekend can be. Again you saw McLaren and Williams were not so good today, they will be tomorrow. I think Friday nowadays doesn't tell you much.


Ferrari

Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:17.130): "I feel very comfortable in the car and after a good start, it means we can beconfident for the rest of the weekend. It is a nice feeling to be racing the new car and this provisionalpole means that so far the car has lived up to our expectations. For the race, we can expect hotconditions which means the tires will be sliding quite a bit, but we expect that here and have planned forit. Given that Rubens had to jump into the spare and drive with my settings, he also did a good jobtoday. Sitting in the cockpit of a race car at a grand prix again has been the best way to take my mind offthe events of the Imola weekend."

Rubens Barrichello (3rd, 1:17.218): "I did not get a chance to use my car because of a small water leak and I had tojump in the T-car which had been set up for Michael. My car ran perfectly this morning and felt good. Iam just happy to have done a competitive time, because the settings on the spare car were verydifferent to mine in terms of the seat and the position of the pedals. Actually, I have to say it was funmaking the last minute switch! Hopefully tomorrow, the situation will be calmer and I will be able to do abetter lap. I hope to be on pole."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "This has been the F2003-GA's first day at a Grand Prix weekend and the debut of a newcar is always an emotional moment. At the end of the first qualifying session, we have Michael onprovisional pole and Rubens in third place, while the other front running positions look a bit different tousual. The first day of practice has confirmed, possibly more so than usual, that at this track, tire choiceis always a critical factor in the final outcome. It also reinforces the importance of our close collaborationon a daily basis, with Bridgestone. We are embarking on a new adventure with the F2003-GA. The bestwe can wish for, for ourselves, our partners and our fans, is that this car will deliver the same emotionand satisfaction which we derived from the F2002. It was a car which will always have a place in thehistory of Ferrari and of Formula 1 itself, representing the results of the combined efforts of anextraordinary team made up of exceptional people."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "We are very pleased with our performance today, the first time we ran the new car with low fuel and new tires. We still have to do some work on the balance of the car for tomorrow, but the results are encouraging and I think we can look forward to a strong race on Sunday. Rubens' car developed a water leak and so he qualified with the spare car, which also performed pretty well."

Williams-BMW

Ralf Schumacher (11th, 1:18.409): "Obviously the first qualifying session was not satisfying for me. I was struggling with the balance of the car and made a few mistakes. In one corner I nearly lost the car. Though, I am not too worried. In qualifying we have not yet seen the full potential of the FW25. Now we will go ahead to further improve the set-up for tomorrow's practice sessions and final qualifying."

Juan Pablo Montoya (14th, 1:18.607): "We knew that this was going to be a difficult weekend for us and this afternoon's times show that we are still struggling in finding the right balance for our car on this track. I had some oversteer on my qualifying lap which severely affected my performance. Let's work on it now and hopefully sort it out for tomorrow."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "After looking competitive this morning we went in the wrong direction on the set up and had a few problems with the balance on both cars which caused us to lose quite a bit of time in qualifying. Now we are going to have a look at the data to make sure we can sort this our for tomorrow, even though tomorrow is a different story anyway because we are going to set up the car for the race."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "In the Free Practice both the drivers, especially Ralf, had succeeded in setting up the car for this track quite well but in qualifying they were both unhappy with their balance. Our times and positions show that the track conditions have changed since this morning. However, the time that Ralf achieved this morning in Free Practice would have been good for first position in qualifying."

McLaren-Mercedes

Kimi Raikkonen (8th, 1:17.862): "The track was very dirty when I went out which definitely cost me some time and the track appeared to become cleaner towards the end, which obviously affected the times. Apart from that the day was OK and we did a bit of work with the car. Like the other teams we do a lot of testing here so we know the track well and I look forward to tomorrow."

David Coulthard (9th, 1:18.060): "We went through our set program during this morning's practice and didn't really have any problems. However during qualifying the car suffered a bit from oversteer at low speeds, which cost me some time in the first sector. There was still a lot of dirt left on the track after the earlier support race practice which affected me, but at the end of the day its tomorrow that counts."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Barcelona is our primary test circuit which means that we have a great deal of data available to assist in our race preparation. However this data doesn't include information about the two newly developed tires that we are using at this event. As a result our balance is not fully optimised, which coupled with dirty circuit conditions, made today's' qualifying session a little bit difficult."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Kimi and David went out first and second and acted as track-cleaners. The circuit was extremely dirty following the touring car practice, but tomorrow and Sunday we should be significantly better."

Renault

Jarno Trulli (2nd, 1:17.149): "I had a perfect car this afternoon, thanks to the whole team. This morning we were quite busy, sorting out minor problems and working on a series of different things on the car. It all paid off with this very positive second place."

Fernando Alonso (10th, 1:18.100): "This morning's session, although we had a slight delay, was very useful because we learnt a lot about tires and car set- up. This afternoon my lap was good and I am confident that we have a more competitive car than in Imola. Tomorrow's qualifying should be good for us."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Overall a very successful day for us. We knew we would be more competitive here than at the previous race but Jarno's result today went beyond our expectations, and we are very pleased for him. Fernando's car didn't quite have the speed required but we think there will be no problem in getting him into a good position tomorrow. It looks very encouraging for us."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "An excellent performance from Jarno. This morning's session was somewhat troublesome and maybe the gap we had this afternoon between the two drivers is the result of that. Now we have to bring Fernando's performance up, to be able to place both cars in a competitive position on the grid."

Sauber-Petronas

Heinz-Harald Frentzen (16th, 1:18.909): "It's not as bad as it looks. We made a small step with the car this afternoon. Unfortunately it was in the wrong direction, and I had too much oversteer. I'm sure we can do better tomorrow."

Nick Heidfeld (17th, 1:19.050): "I was struggling with oversteer this morning and we made some changes for the afternoon. They improved the car's balance for qualifying but obviously not enough. I am not happy with my position but we think we have a direction to go for tomorrow."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Our Friday qualifying result is disappointing. We obviously moved into the wrong direction when setting up the cars for the afternoon session. Now we must analyze the results and what we have learnt today, in order to improve our performance for second qualifying and the race."

Jordan-Ford

Giancarlo Fisichella (15th, 1:18.879): "Well today was nothing special. We didn't really expect to be in good shape as this circuit is so difficult when it comes to balance and it seems we can't get our car to suit the track. We are working on it as we need a big improvement for tomorrow."

Ralph Firman (18th, 1:19.195): "Although I'm a bit disappointed overall, I felt it was a reasonable lap, and it's encouraging that I'm not too far away from Giancarlo's time. We were looking promising this morning so hopefully we can find that pace again and move up the grid."

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "I suppose it has not been our best day. We lost our way somewhere at the end of the practice session to be honest and never really got on top of it. We were able to do a 1:17.9s lap this morning and I was pretty happy with that. We should be able to do it now as well so we have to find out what happened between practice and qualifying and we are working on that. Ralph had a bit too much understeer on the lap, although the car was consistent and balance is very important here because if it's out by even a little bit, you lose a lot of lap time. He knows this circuit and has been doing a very competent job."

Jaguar-Cosworth

Mark Webber (7th, 1:17.793): "A good lap, albeit I had a bit of a moment on Turn nine. The track temperature here goes up quite quickly and subsequently it gets quite sensitive out there. You end up having to take a little chance on mechanical set-up and tire choice but everything worked out well for me in the end. The car was very good over the one-lap although it felt a little oversteery towards the end. We still need to do some work on race set-up and concentrate on some longer runs, but overall I am satisfied. The strategies going into the race on Sunday will be interesting in that the fuel-effect is quite considerable around here but everyone is in the same boat. I don't think there will be a big difference in the strategies employed by the teams and as always, the racing here will be close on Sunday."

Antonio Pizzonia (13th, 1:18.528): "I am a bit disappointed not to have done better. We made some set-up changes to the car before qualifying which didn't quite work for me and unfortunately my qualifying time was slower than my fastest time in this morning's session - even though I was carrying more fuel this morning. I also never managed to undertake a light fuel run this morning and that didn't help my preparation going into qualifying. Tomorrow is the real qualifying test and we'll keep plugging away at the car in an effort to fine-tune it to my liking."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "A very good day all round. With four races gone now, we have a very clear understanding of the competitiveness of the Jaguar R4. The pace and balance are very good but the one area that has eluded us thus far is reliability. We have been in points scoring positions in all four races and in some cases, podium contenders. Given that reliability is the key to fully unlocking our potential, we have spent a lot of time working on these issues. We tested for three days in Mugello last week and covered every aspect of the car. We arrived in Barcelona with a full data bank of knowledge and given how well the drivers know this circuit, qualifying today was a true indication of the car's pace. It really is all about performance around the Circuit de Catalunya. We choose a good tire for the session and yet again, Mark Webber has demonstrated the capability of our package and of course, himself! Antonio was unlucky this morning to have suffered a transmission issue which forced him to take the T-car for Free Practice but nonetheless, his race car was ready again in time for qualifying. In short, a very pleasing start to what we hope will be a rewarding weekend points wise."

BAR-Honda

Jenson Button (5th, 1:17.613): "I'm very pleased with 5th today. This morning I had a car that was a little bit too twitchy at the rear in the high-speed corners and I was worried that we wouldn't be able to get on top of that. We made some changes though and they seemed to do the trick, so I'm pleasantly surprised. It just felt like a very clean lap in which everything came together. A start like this gives you the confidence that the car is going to be stable for final qualifying and the race, so I'm very happy. We've had another small step up with the engine and aero here and these changes are gradually paying dividends. Things are looking good for the rest of the weekend so I'd like to think that top six is a possibility on Sunday."

Jacques Villeneuve (12th, 1:18.461): "The car has been very hard to drive all day but it didn't feel like a particularly bad lap, so it's a little bit disappointing. On long runs we were quite competitive but we just don't seem to have been able to make new tyres work for us today. Jenson's time showed that the car is quick but we have some work to do this evening to understand why we haven't been able to get the best out of it today."

David Richards, Team Principal: "We've spent a considerable amount of time testing at Barcelona during the winter and thus one expects to come here with a set-up that is pretty close to optimum. However, it is always surprising how much the track changes with temperature and use, which was certainly the case today. Jenson did an exceptional job with his lap and I'm quite certain that, with a further hour and a half of running tomorrow morning, Jacques will be on a similar pace for final qualifying."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "Barcelona is a good test of chassis and aerodynamic performance with quite changeable conditions. Despite testing here regularly we are still kept very busy finding the optimum set-up. Neither driver was happy this morning, though we were able to improve the car considerably for the high-speed corners. This afternoon, Jenson had a much better lap than Jacques, who was still not comfortable with the car. It is difficult to estimate where our true performance level lies since a number of teams will be running heavier fuel. However, we are reasonably happy going into tomorrow and we are in a good position to be in the points on Sunday."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Our drivers covered 52 laps between them this morning and we've had a trouble-free reliable day, which I'm very pleased about. Jenson put in a good lap this afternoon and set a competitive time which is encouraging for the rest of the weekend. I'm sure both guys are looking forward to qualifying tomorrow."

Minardi-Cosworth

Jos Verstappen (19th, 1:20.822): "Unfortunately, we weren't able to produce the same sort of lap time in qualifying this afternoon as we did this morning, but as anyone who knows this circuit and its characteristics will tell you, it is at its fastest between 9:30 am and 11:00 am, and it is then very difficult to match those times in the heat of the afternoon, even on the same fuel load. I was quite pleased with my qualifying lap today - I was on the limit all the way, which is how it should be in qualifying."

Justin Wilson (20th, 1:21.100): "Things went well this morning and we made some good progress. The car felt great in qualifying, but the lap time was 0.9 seconds slower, so we're a bit confused. We'll check through the data and see where we lost the time. The track lost grip this afternoon for certain, but we still suffered more than we should have in performance terms. Overall, we're a bit disappointed, but hopefully, we can make progress on the basis of what we learned this morning. We'll see what tomorrow brings."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "This may only have been the first day of practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, but it has become clear in the course of the day that Minardi's lack of testing at a track where so many other F1 teams test extensively has cost us dearly. Both Justin and Jos drove faultlessly today, however, and got the best out of the equipment at their disposal. It's clear that we've got much work to do and we'll hope to make progress tomorrow."

Toyota

Cristiano Da Matta (4th, 1:17.443): "We have come to Barcelona this weekend where we have been quick in pre-season testing. It is a circuit, which the team knows very well and that has obviously been a big advantage in terms of finding a good set-up on the car. I am very pleased with my qualifying run. It was a good, clean lap and the car performed well. We now have to sit down and find out what areas still need improving before tomorrow's practice and qualifying. Overall, I am happy with today's performance and fourth place is definitely good for starters."

Olivier Panis (6th, 1:17.746): "We didn't manage a lot of things in practice this morning because we had some problems during the session. I am still not a hundred percent happy with the car, but we have the rest of the day to work on this and prepare a bit better for tomorrow. Having said that, sixth position is very good for the team and both cars are performing competitively. We also went well here in winter testing, but there are still things to improve on the car and I think we can go even quicker."

Ange Pasquali, Team Manager: "This morning, we began the weekend in a positive way. We have tested here a lot over the winter like most of the other teams and, on the basis of this first qualifying result, it appears to have been very beneficial for us. We had some set-up problems on Olivier's car in this morning's practice session, which limited his running, but the team did a good, professional job to improve in time for his qualifying run. To have two cars in the top 6 is a fabulous result and I hope we can continue like this tomorrow."

Print Story