SPANISH GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT

Ferrari front row

Michael Schumacher, Spanish GP 2003

Michael Schumacher, Spanish GP 2003 

 © The Cahier Archive

POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE - MAY 3, 2003

1. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1m17.762s
2. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1m18.020s (+ 0.258s)
3. Fernando ALONSO (RENAULT), 1m18.233s (+ 0.471s)

TV UNILATERIALS

Q: Michael, you were slightly down on Rubens at the beginning of the lap. Did you know that in the car?

Michael SCHUMACHER: No. We don't have the ability to know exactly the sector times. We have our personal sector times but they don't always compare to what Rubens uses, for example. So you just go for the best and see what you get out of it.

Q: Did it feel like a lap where you were maybe down at the beginning and picked up a lot of speed towards the end?

Schumacher: No, actually I thought I lost in the middle and in the end of the lap. In turn nine, I didn't get a good line and turn eleven wasn't the best. The first sector was reasonable honestly, but all weekend Rubens has been very good and very fast so I was thinking well, I might have to stick with a position behind him but it turned out to be better.

Q: Tell us about the new car, it's been very quick all weekend, tell us about the build-up to the weekend as well?

Schumacher: Yeah, I imagine it's been a tough time for everyone in the team to get the car here and ready and, naturally, the first time you come here with a new car there's a lot of extra work, a lot of things to do, to look at and to control, and the guys have done a fantastic job. Although the car is basically three months old for us, a race is a different situation and the guys have done a fantastic job, honestly. We knew, all the time, that the car was a step forward and finally we have been able to prove that with official times.

Q: Can you try to put into words the differences between this car and last year's car in terms of driving the lap?

Schumacher: It's faster.

Q: ...and the balance, and the feel?

Schumacher: You know with a race car, you aim to have a more neutral car and a more faster car and there's not one sector we have improved in particular, we have improved in all the areas. Each engineer, each mechanic has made his contribution and worked on each detail and that's what has made the car so special although if you imagine the car that we had last year, you have to be impressed with the effort those guys have made.

Q: He was probably joking, but yesterday Juan Pablo Montoya said that he was surprised the new Ferrari wasn't a little bit quicker. Do you think we've seen the exact potential of the car today?

Schumacher: I think what we have seen over the weekend is that whoever runs first in qualifying, suffers quite a bit because the circuit really improves quite a bit towards the end and we were one of the first drivers out yesterday, and I think you see a little bit more what the situation is now, and you will see the true potential what the car can do tomorrow.

Q: Rubens, you said yesterday that you had Michael's seat and his throttle pedal. Did you have that today as well?

Rubens BARRICHELLO: No, no. Today everything was fine. I had my race car and everything worked quite well.

Q: Tell us about that lap and how it was from your point of view?

Barrichello: Well actually, it wasn't a good lap. I was just happy. It's a fantastic start to the new car, first and second on the grid and a track on which we believe we go quite well. But my lap itself wasn't brilliant, it was a compromise today in between going very fast on the limit and being cautious because just off line is quite dusty, as we saw with Kimi today, he ran off. But putting everything into a balance, I think it's quite positive and the way that we think the strategy turns out I think will be quite positive.

Q: We saw some interesting strategies at Imola, particularly with Renault qualifying with a three stop fuel load and doing a two stop race. Has that changed the way teams are going to approach these new regulations?

Barrichello: Well, there's obviously a change because you cannot do everything by yourself. You have to consider the other teams because when you want to play with the strategy, you have to know where you are going to be sitting, so it's a more complicated business than it used to be in a way.

Q: Fernando, a great start to the season and now third on the grid for your home Grand Prix. Tell us about you feelings and emotions at this stage?

Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, the feeling is obviously very special here in Barcelona, to be fighting with the top teams like Ferrari in the last ten minutes of qualifying. It's great for me to be here in Barcelona in front of my people and trying to get this kind of result. Tomorrow I hope to do a good race, score more points. Our race won't be winning, obviously, but I think we've been very strong all weekend, the team, Jarno and me, and tomorrow we have a very good chance to score many points.

Q: As Michael said, the track was getting quicker, but you did that time effectively from the midfield, a great lap.

Alonso: Yeah, the lap was very good. I was very, very happy when I crossed the line. I think the track was a little bit worse at the beginning. We saw yesterday, clearly, that the track was very bad at the beginning and today also. Starting in tenth position is not fantastic but it was my result from yesterday and next time I will try to do a little bit better on Friday.

Q: So how much was it worth to have that home crowd behind you?

Alonso: It helps a lot to be here and watch all these people in the grandstand, it's a great motivation for a driver. I hope tomorrow to do a fantastic race here.

Q: There were a lot of blue flags; were they Renault flags or something else?

Alonso: No, it's my home city flag but they are very similar compared to Renault and when you look at both flags you cannot see if it's my home flag or Renault. This year I have the car with my colours and it's fine.

Q: Michael, tell us about your expectations for this race: did you really think the pole was on with a brand new car like this?

Schumacher: Honestly we knew that there was a good opportunity for us, yes, because the car is better than last year's car. We have been achieving pole positions with last year's car so naturally you think, on a circuit like Barcelona where the car counts for so much in relation to some other circuits, that this should be a good opportunity.

Q: Tell us about your thoughts for the race? It's a difficult circuit in terms of tires, temperatures...

Schumacher: It's a circuit where the heat comes on and the tires take a significant dive and you slide a lot, so it's an issue where you simply have to control everything in a way to get consistent lap times and not overdo it and overstress your tires and then maybe suffer at some stage.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, before the start of qualifying Ross said, I think with a certain amount of frustration, this track is so inconsistent. To what extent were you chasing the settings of the car and gambling with the settings of the car before qualifying?

Schumacher: Basically for me it has been the first time to be here with the new car, Rubens has been here and so we got some information but at the time we concentrated on one aspect. This weekend we tried to concentrate on another aspect and indeed the circuit did change temperature, wind direction, so it was maybe not the most easy to find the direction to go but in the end we did.

Q: How much of a gamble was it?

Schumacher: We won the gamble so it was a good one. But it is not that much of a gamble, it wasn't like we were in completely one direction and then went to another, it was just fine-tuning and finding the right set-up.

Q: The track temperature came down a little bit towards the end. Do you think that made a difference for you?

Schumacher: I think less than basically putting rubber on and cleaning the circuit. That is much more of an effect and influence and an effect that anything else and I guess it can only be a degree rather than anything more.

Q: The World Championship leader had a bit of a problem out there, what were your feelings when you saw that?

Schumacher: If you look at the points situation obviously that is an opportunity for us, where we are, where he is.

Q: Rubens, how have found working with the new car? Has it been straightforward? You obviously had a problem yesterday but otherwise fairly straightforward?

Barrichello: Yeah very much. It is pretty much on the same level of work or concentration or talking to the engineers as the other car. Not a big change.

Q: You've had phenomenal straight-line speed, is that something you have been concentrating on?

Barrichello: Not really. We've been working on the car as a package, nothing special on straight-lines or cornering or anything, just concentrating on getting the best out of the car balance-wise. Tomorrow's race is going to be for everyone quite a hard day and it is always the key here that the track will get even more dirtier on the outside, more rubber in but the rubber on the outside just makes you lose the line so I think it is going to be interesting.

Q: Fernando, did you ever dream that you could be on pole position here in your home Grand Prix?

Alonso: Yes, but these guys here have very good potential, they are very quick and it is difficult to fight with them. But for me third position here in Barcelona is like a dream, it is a fantastic result from qualifying and tomorrow we will have a very good chance to score more points. I think our car is very competitive with fuel and the race should be good for us and also for the tires.

Q: Were you happy with the lap?

Alonso: Yes. I was very happy when I crossed the line. Obviously you can do something more always, maybe one-tenth or something like that, but the position should be the same.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: Question to Michael regarding Fernando. Considering how young he is, he is running in front of his home public with the presser, what do you think of him, his performance, what is your opinion about him?

Schumacher: Honestly I think he does an outstanding job, not only now he has already done it when he joined Minardi in my view. He has consistently improved and he has shown his capability. Concerning the pressure I don't know. Normally when you sit in the race car, from my point of view, you don't consider so much where you are, you just do your job and concentrate. Whether he does the same or not with the extra pressure that is there or not you will have to ask him. But I think he does a very good job.

Q: Question to Alonso. Considering the tire can be the key to the victory in this race, how is the tire wear in your car?

Alonso: Very good. We did quite a good choice in Friday's testing session and you know we found a very good tire, very consistent and also very good for the timed lap. I'm really confident for the race and to be in the first positions in qualifying means a lot for the race but anyway our strategy and tires should work very well tomorrow. I'm happy with the position and the tire performance this weekend.


Ferrari

Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:17.762): "This weekend is the first time I have driven the new car at this track and so it was not easy to find the right direction in terms of set-up, but today's result shows we seem to have got it right. As usual with a new car, we have had more work to do, checking everything on the car, even though we have used it for the past three months. A race weekend is always different, but the whole team has done a fantastic job. My lap was not perfect as I had a bad line through Turn 9 and Turn 11. As Rubens has been very quick, I thought I might be behind him, but in the end I was quicker. We always felt we had a chance of pole as we know this car is faster than the old one and at this track, the car's performance is very important. How does this car differ from the old one? It's faster! You always aim to make a car faster and more neutral and the team has worked on each detail of the package."

Rubens Barrichello (2nd, 1:18.020): "The car worked very well, as we managed to improve its balance. But it was not a great lap for me. Being first and second on the grid is a very good start for the new car. In qualifying,there is always a compromise between going on the limit and being a little bit cautious as the track here is very dirty if you go a little bit off the perfect line. As for the race, I think we have a good strategy, although with the new qualifying rules you have to try and work out what the other teams are doing and where you will be in terms of track position. Again tomorrow, the track off the line will get more and more dirty during the race, so it should be an interesting afternoon."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was a very exciting qualifying session. We have managed to secure an all-red front row which is the best possible way to start the race, even though we will have to wait until tomorrow to get a clear picture of the fuel levels being run by the others. The F2003-GA has confirmed its potential right from its very first appearance at a Grand Prix weekend. Now we can expect a very tough race with, as usual, reliability and strategy playing key roles. The support of our partners has been very important here, especially that of Bridgestone and Shell, who have brought a new fuel here, specially designed for the 052 engine."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "This year, it is proving very difficult to make an accurate assessment of qualifying, given that we don't know how much fuel the others are using. That aside, we are obviously satisfied with this result and are confident for tomorrow afternoon's race. We had a new Bridgestone tire at our disposal, but we felt that in terms of the race, the one we had used during test sessions at this track back in March offered a better overall performance."

Williams-BMW

Ralf Schumacher (7th, 1:19.006): "There is no doubt that we cannot be satisfied with our qualifying result as our pace is too far away from the top teams. However I believe that we can do well tomorrow with our race strategy. Realistically, we had higher expectations of our performance on this circuit after our most recent test . It is now a matter of hoping that we have the right balance for the race to enable us to score a useful amount of points."

Juan Pablo Montoya (9th, 1:19.377): "It's been a difficult weekend but I think finally we have sorted my car, which is still not very good but at least its handling has improved and it is now drivable. Right before the warm up I was told there was a fuel pump problem on my race car so I had to switch to the T-car and that didn't help either. We are starting tomorrow from fairly poor grid positions but this is what we've got at the moment and we have to deal with it and make the most of our race."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "Obviously we would have liked to have finished higher up. We have spent the weekend so far looking for improvements in the cars' balance which has been bettered again for today's second qualifying. Now we will work on optimizing our strategy for tomorrow and hope for a good race."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "After the fastest times Ralf set here in our test in March and in Friday's free practice, today both our drivers were not really happy with the set up of their cars. As we expect to see different strategies as the race unfolds, it is difficult to evaluate the qualifying performances of our competitors."

McLaren-Mercedes

David Coulthard (8th, 1:19.128): "Just before the start of the qualifying session, the engine developed a problem and had to be changed. The team did a great job in getting the car ready just before it was my turn, but we were already committed to the T-car. Obviously we had to make a few adjustments to the spare car, as it was set up for Kimi. However, after this morning's session I was going to use Kimi's settings anyway so all in all I'm not too unhappy with fourth row considering that it was the first time I drove the car. Now we will see what happens in the race and hope for the best."

Kimi Raikkonen (20th, No Time): "I made a mistake under braking at Turn Seven and went into the gravel and lost a lot of time. It was a shame as I was quick, but these things happen. The team told me to abandon the lap and come back, as there was no way I would have ended up with a competitive time. I will start the race from last on the grid, which is obviously less than ideal but as the races have shown so far this year anything can happen, and we will do our best to get into the points."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "I think that our drivers' comments provide a clear understanding of today's qualifying session. However our race strategy should give both David and Kimi the opportunity to finish in the points."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Certainly not the qualifying result we wanted. We had to change David's engine as a precautionary measure, so he ended up qualifying in the T-car. To start from eighth and last position will make the race difficult, but let's see what tomorrow brings."

Renault

Fernando Alonso (3rd, 1:18.233): "This is a special day for me since - as I had hoped - I was able to place my car in the second row of the starting grid at my home Grand Prix, in front of my crowd. I felt the car much more competitive today than yesterday. In qualifying, it was perfectly balanced and I did an excellent lap. I think that both Jarno and myself are in the position to fight a good race tomorrow and bring some more valuable points to the team."

Jarno Trulli (4th, 1:18.615): "A very positive weekend so far, which resulted in a very good qualifying for me: I did a perfect lap and I'm very satisfied of my fourth place. Now we will see in tomorrow's race, how the cars will perform and how competitive we will be compared to our direct competitors, but I am quite confident in our strategy and in our tires."

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "An excellent result for the team, as both drivers did a perfect lap. We are thrilled to have our cars on the second row of the starting grid. For tomorrow, we believe in our strategy and we have to work out how to try and beat the Ferraris."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "A very positive result for two reasons: first of all, because we feel we are very close to the Ferraris, which represent the benchmark in the championship. Then, because we had a trouble free day and because the performances of our drivers are again very close. I think we have all the elements we need to have a strong race tomorrow."

Sauber-Petronas

Heinz-Harald Frentzen (10th, 1:19.427): "I'm pleased that my optimism for the effect of the changes we made this morning has proved justified. The car felt better and the balance was pretty good. I had a little problem with a brake vibration during the pre-qualifying warm-up, but everything was okay for my run and I'm happy with 10th place."

Nick Heidfeld (14th, 1:19.646): "The car was much better than this morning, for sure! The balance was the best that it has been all weekend. I lost a little bit of time in the middle sector, but otherwise it was a good run and I'm happier than I was yesterday."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Considering our performance during practice yesterday and this morning, and the strategy we have chosen for the race, we are satisfied with 10th and 14th places on the grid. Both drivers had a hard time, so thank you to them for their sterling efforts."

Jordan-Ford

Ralph Firman (15th, 1:20.215): "I feel quite happy with qualifying. We are getting a lot closer to a good set-up and I'm hoping for positive things tomorrow. We may be in with a shout of scoring a point if we have a good race. It's going to be a long hard race but I'm looking forward to it. I was surprised to see Giancarlo out on the circuit as when I left the garage the car was still in bits, although I was really focusing on my own thing."

Giancarlo Fisichella (17th, 1:20.976): "We had a few problems fitting the race engine on my car so I couldn't do the warm-up session. We changed engines and there was still a problem so we went to the T car, which was set up for Ralph, and I had not driven it all weekend. It's been quite a frustrating weekend and it will be difficult tomorrow. I'm disappointed, but these things happen. Anyway, you never know. I still hope to score some points."

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "We ran into a bit of a drama when fitting Giancarlo's race engine so we had to change very quickly to the only other engine kitted up and ready to go, the T car engine, and unfortunately in so doing, the fuel pump on his race car was damaged. So we had to get the T car ready, and put the engine back on it. It was a bit of a self-inflicted saga of events. Giancarlo hadn't driven the T car this weekend and it's never the same. Thankfully Ralph's day was without problems, he got a reasonably good lap and is fairly content with his set-up. We may be able to recoup something tomorrow in the race."

Jaguar-Cosworth

Mark Webber (12th, 1:19.615): "A good day overall. We spent the morning working on race set-up and on tires, brakes and fuel. We also concentrated on race strategy for tomorrow. It's difficult knowing exactly where to put your eggs between qualifying set-up and race setup and consequently, you have no choice but to make a trade-off. In our case, we have focused our efforts on tomorrow's race. I was actually aiming for the top ten today but the somewhat higher track temperature worked against us. Overall, we have had a very productive weekend so far and I am looking forward to racing tomorrow. We have tackled a lot of our reliability issues here this weekend and the package is in good shape for the race."

Antonio Pizzonia (16th, 1:20.308): "I am disappointed to be honest. We undertook some good work this morning but I suffered from a balance shift problem with my car. The rising track temperature also meant that the track got slower for my qualifying run but the package is well prepared for the race tomorrow. I would have liked to have put the car higher up the order today but it appears that many teams and drivers are suffering from problems - particularly understeer. The team has spent considerable time this weekend ensuring reliability and given how punishing this circuit can be over a race distance, seeing the chequered flag is the goal. With some clever strategy work, one can never rule out a points challenge if you cross the finishing line at this race."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "Today has been a good day in terms of running and track time. We have been reliable all through the weekend and both drivers have focused on building a race set-up for tomorrow which, given the tire and set-up choice, has compromised slightly our qualifying performance today. Saying that, we are happy with the qualifying performances. Both drivers did a good job out there and given that the track temperature actually dropped towards the end of the session, their times could maybe have been better had they gone out towards the end of the pack. Mark was quite happy with the balance of the Jaguar R4 in the morning Free Practice, albeit suffering from low levels of grip in places. Antonio was less happy with the balance of his car and in addition, we are working to correct some understeer from his car. It is, however, a compromise between optimizing qualifying set-up versus race set-up. Both our drivers are going into the race with a good balance but given their places on the grid, the challenge of fighting for points is a little harder. Nonetheless, we'll give it our best shot and hope that our reliability target can be achieved."

BAR-Honda

Jenson Button (5th, 1:18.704): "I'm really pleased with fifth today. It felt like a quick lap but I did make a couple of mistakes. I pushed a bit too hard in some of the corners and got a bit of oversteer but it's nothing that can't be sorted out for tomorrow. It's been a very positive weekend so far. We've made solid progress towards the race and that's shown itself in qualifying today. I think our strategy is the right way to go so I hope we can turn that into a good result for the team tomorrow."

Jacques Villeneuve (11th, 1:19.563): "It was a good clean lap; nothing special but I'm quite happy. Compared with yesterday, our two cars are a lot closer together considering our respective strategies. We were a little bit lost yesterday and the car was undriveable but we've been able to work on that for today. I'm happy with our strategy and Jenson's lap showed that we have a good set-up going into the race. We're looking strong compared to other Bridgestone runners."

David Richards, Team Principal: "Both drivers can feel very satisfied with their grid positions given that they each intend to take a different strategy for the race tomorrow. It is encouraging for the entire team to see the steady progress we've been making since the start of the season."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "We had a good problem-free morning and were able to concentrate on getting a good compromise set-up between new and old tires and between a single lap and long runs. Jacques started the day with the T-car chassis and we were able to make good progress towards improving his set-up, despite him going off towards the end of the morning session. We enjoyed a solid qualifying performance from both drivers and we go into tomorrow's race confident that we will be racing for points."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Qualifying on the third and sixth row gives us a good chance to score some more points. Overall the weekend has been encouraging for us so I'm quite positive about tomorrow and I'm sure both drivers will have a strong race."

Minardi-Cosworth

Justin Wilson (18th, 1:22.104): "I was quite fired up for that one after yesterday. It was a pretty clean lap, although I did catch the edge of the curb at Turn 6 in the middle sector, which cost me a little bit. I think we were close to extracting the most we could from the car, and generally, I wasn't unhappy with the run. The main goal now is to get the best start possible in the race tomorrow and then get to the finish."

Jos Verstappen (19th, 1:22.237): "Disappointingly, we ran slower on the qualifying lap than in the warm-up session 15 minutes before, and that was despite pushing harder. We made a small change to the front wing before the qualifying run just to try to improve the chassis balance, but if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have done that. We were again very close to the limit today, and in that situation, it's difficult to find more time in the car - I made a little mistake at Turn 4, which maybe cost me a tenth of a second, but that was about it. As for the race tomorrow, hopefully, it will rain, as that would suit us. This is a track that is known to be hard on tires, so there may a lot of pit stops tomorrow. We will just have to see how things develop and hope for some good luck."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "Finishing P18 and P19 is perhaps the best we could expect today. Both Justin and Jos drove faultlessly all day, though, and hopefully the reliability we've enjoyed throughout the weekend will continue through the race in order to let us record a two-car finish tomorrow."

Toyota

Olivier Panis (6th, 1:18.811): "I am very happy with the result today. We had quite a few problems with the handling yesterday but the team reacted very well to improve the car and I felt a big improvement in the set-up this morning. My qualifying lap today was very good and I think we are on a positive strategy for tomorrow's race. We have shown in pre-season testing and during this weekend that the TF103 is very competitive at this Barcelona track. Starting from sixth on the grid, I feel that we are in a strong position for the race."

Cristiano Da Matta (13th, 1:19.623): "I do not think my qualifying lap was perfect, but it was not too bad either. We missed the settings and the balance of the car a little bit and I was suffering from oversteer, so I could not push that hard. I am not as happy with the car's balance as I was yesterday, so now we have to try to figure out why and learn for the future. We were just too much on the oversteer side. We can do small corrections for the race but nothing big, so I will try my best to get as far up the field as possible with this starting position."

Keizo Takahashi, General Manager, Car Design and Development: "I am very happy with this top six result and the whole Panasonic Toyota Racing team is pleased. We found a good set-up on Olivier's car and he put in a very strong drive today to score sixth - one of our best ever results for qualifying. In Cristiano's case, the car set-up was not as good as yesterday, but we think we have a good race strategy and we have the chance to achieve our first points of the season tomorrow."

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