MAY 17, 2003
AUSTRIAN GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT
Qualifying Report- Michael by a fraction...
Nothing is easy in Formula 1 these days. In order to eke out an advantage the engineers have to struggle through endless series of different compromises to find extra horsepower or a little better aerodynamic performance. They talk of interactions affecting interactions and only the wild-haired aerodynamicists seem to understand what is happening. It is all about packaging. The same is true of race meetings. After qualifying we can no longer say: this is black and this is white. Interactions are affecting interactions. And at the A1 Ring it was more complicated than ever for this has always been a circuit where teams have used one set-up for qualifying (with as much downforce as possible) and another for the race (with a lot less wing to enable overtaking). Balancing these two needs with tyre wear and fuel loads must have made for some interesting conversations amongst the engineers but made the whole business rather hard for the average F1 observer to understand.
There was a fear that Ferrari was going to sweep all before it. The new car is clearly very good and the team's understanding of the A1 Ring has been good in recent years. The frightening thought was that Bridgestone had new tyres specifically for the new cars and so logically they should have been better than they were in Spain. And yet Michael Schumacher was really struggling on Saturday morning as he went off three times in the morning sessions. He had been dominant on Friday (with Rubens Barrichello behind him) but on Saturday things seemed much more complicated. The fuel load and the tyre wear were obviously part of the equation. So too was the temperature. But, when all was said and done, Michael picked the car up and drove it to pole position. He made it by just four one hundredths of a second. But pole it was an on Sunday Michael would start eight metres ahead of the game.
It had not been an easy lap and Michael said that he was surprised that he had not gone off at the second corner.
What was the strategy? Who could tell? How good were the tyres? Who could tell? There were whispers after the session that Ferrari had given up on the new 2003 tyres and were back on the reliable old 2002 tyres again.
The impression was that the Michelin runners seemed to be more in control but then fourth on the grid was a Sauber and there was a BAR and a Jordan in the top 10, hints that the Bridgestones were also very good.
Barrichello was fifth on the grid, complaining that his tyres would not last a lap in qualifying.
Friday had suggested that Ferrari was well clear of everyone and that Jaguar had the third fastest car. It was odd that there was no real impression being made by Williams and McLaren.
Renault had been intelligent enough to pre-empt disappointment by telling the world in advance that they did not expect much in Austria. It was anticipated that the team would revert to running the cars light in qualifying and hope to be able to hang on in the race for a half-decent result.
McLaren and Williams both seemed to be OK but not OK. Williams could have done without Ralf Schumacher parking his FW25 in the sandtrap on Friday. That meant he would run first on Saturday and as the track would be dirty it was clear that his was not going to achieve much. in the circumstances his 10th place on the grid was not bad. Not the performance of a $15m a year driver but not quite the disaster it might have been. Montoya was much better placed and by qualifying seemed to be confident. The car was handling well and was very consistent on the longer runs. It would be strong in the race. But how strong? Starting third would help.
McLaren was very happy with Kimi Raikkonen's performance. He was his usual understated self but was obviously optimistic for Sunday. Would he run two stops or three? No-one knew.
David Coulthard on the other hand was in a mess and only 14th on the grid, his car refusing to do what he wanted it to do. He was rather depressed.
The biggest surprise on Saturday was the performance of Nick Heidfeld in the Sauber. The German driver had struggled all weekend with his own car and finally turned to the spare which was supposed to an identical piece of kit. It went a second faster. Heidfeld looked like a man who was running an agressive three-stop strategy. His team mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen, being older and wiser, opted for a two-stop approach and paid for it in qualifying, lining up 15th.
Behind Heidfeld and Barrichello was Jarno Trulli in his Renault. The cars were not quick on Friday and so it was safe to assume that the fuel load would not be massive on Sunday. This would be a problem for Fernando Alonso because he would start 19th after going off on his qualifying run while pushing too hard.
"I wanted to do the best I could," he explained.
BAR's hopes on Friday seemed well-founded with Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button fourth and fifth fastest but Saturday was a different story. Button made a mistake at the final corner but had fought oversteer all round the lap, having been unable to get his car well-sorted after an electrical problem in the morning. He was seventh on the grid.
Villeneuve found his car was misbehaving on new tyres and ended up over-driving and raising a great deal of dust.
He was unimpressed with himself and 12th on the grid.
Also kicking himself was Mark Webber. The Australian went wide at the first corner on his qualifying lap. He took the blame himself but reckoned that Villeneuve's scrappy lap had not helped him as there was dust all over the track. After the first corner mistake Webber went bananas to try to make up time but the result was still only 17th on the grid. Disaster.
Still, and ironically, the Jaguar team still had some hope of a good result as Antnio Pizzonia had qualified eighth on the grid and reckoned he would have been fourth if he had not made a mistake.
There was a solid performance from Giancarlo Fisichella, who qualified his Jordan ninth while Ralph Firman's hopes of success were ruined on Friday when he shunted in first qualifying and so had to run early in the session on Saturday and as a result ended up 16th on the grid.
Toyota struggled throughout the qualifying days with an overall lack of grip and set-up changes seemed to make little difference (always a bad sign). This meant that Olivier Panis was 11th on the grid and Cristiano da Matta 13th.
Minardi had a day to forget. Justin Wilson shunted in the closing minutes of the Saturday morning session and so had to go to the spare car. It was not handling well. Jos Verstappen's qualifying lap lasted until the first corner where the gearbox broke.
What did it all mean?
We would have to wait and see...
POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE - MAY 17, 2003
1. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1m09.150s
2. Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), 1m09.189s (+ 0.039s)
3. Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), 1m09.391s (+ 0.241s)
Q: Michael, a little bit down on sector one there?
Michael SCHUMACHER: Yes, a little wobble, a little rear locking which caused me to go wide but I was still lucky because I was able to catch it just at the apex again and didn't lose too much time and then had a good lap from there on.
Q: Rubens was a little bit down on his lap - was that a concern for you going into your qualifying lap?
Schumacher: I didn't actually see the sectors; I just heard the result afterwards. No, honestly, our car has been perfectly balanced all weekend. Together with the engineers, we've done a great job finding the balance straight away from Friday morning onwards. No, I felt that I could do better.
Q: You were significantly quicker than anybody else yesterday in terms of car versus car, but today it looks very close. How do you see the race tomorrow?
Schumacher: What we saw yesterday I would maybe put down to set-up issues. I guess the huge difference that we saw wasn't honestly a true reflection. At least, that's my guess from what I have seen and what I have seen today, so it should be an interesting situation tomorrow.
Q: Kimi, you are still leading the World Championship after an unfortunate incident on the start line of the Spanish Grand Prix and you are bouncing back very strongly here in Austria ?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: Yes, it's been a good qualifying. Unfortunately we haven't got first place but the front row is okay and we will see what we can do in the race.
Q: Tell us about the car - how you have been working with it this weekend, how does it feel, what's the balance like?
Raikkonen: Well yesterday we had some problems, some difficulties with set-ups but we have improved the set-up all the time, especially from this morning, and we seem to have found the right way. In qualifying the car was good to drive and I'm quite happy with it.
Q: What do you think will be the strong points for your package tomorrow?
Raikkonen: Hopefully everything, but I don't know what other teams are doing and they don't know what we are doing. We will see what's going on in the race tomorrow and we will give it our best shot and then hopefully it's enough.
Q: Juan Pablo, you were sixth quickest yesterday but you did say that you had your feeling back for the car. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Juan Pablo MONTOYA: I think yesterday was a good day. The car was starting to get better. We had a really good balance, but it wasn't quick enough and even though the car felt good today, the situation was the same - good balance but it was just about to be quick. We did some changes, some pretty radical changes, on the car and it made a hell of a difference. The car has got so much quicker since then. I think we've got a good strategy for the race and in the long runs we look very competitive compared to Ferrari and McLaren so it should be an interesting race tomorrow.
Q: Quite a lot of drivers seemed to run a bit too wide at turn one today in qualifying?
Montoya: Yeah, actually I lost over a tenth there from my sector in the warm-up because I went in the warm-up and I had a bit of a moment, even though it was quicker it was too far on the limit. I thought everybody's making mistakes there and I knew I had to do a decent first sector without compromising the lap and that's what I did - and looking compared to Michael and Kimi that's where I lost all the time. Even with that, I'm P3 and I'm pretty happy about that.
Q: Michael, since this race last year, we have a new rule that says no team orders should be applied that affect the result of the race. Now, we saw you and Rubens actually touching wheels at the first corner in the previous race, the Spanish Grand Prix. Can you just talk us through your interpretation of that new rule under the heading of ?how do you also drive in the best interests of the team?'
Schumacher: You see the thing in my mind is to win the race, and that's the only thing that counts. That's what I'm going for, that's what our strategy is based on, and team strategy is history.
Q: Fine, but nonetheless, team strategy does come into play still. We see different cars on different strategies, even within the same teams sometimes.
Schumacher: Yup, possible, but I think we made a very clear statement after what happened last year and we will stick to that statement and whatever is allowed from there. Everybody will do the same whenever it's in their interests.
Q: There are some predictions of rain tomorrow. What are your thoughts on that?
Schumacher: Well, no thoughts honestly. I think we will be prepared for all circumstances. We now have two choices of tires, which I think is a very wise decision from the FIA to make the sport a bit safer in that respect, so I have no doubts whatever weather conditions we will face.
Q: Michael, do you think it had all gone away at the second corner?
Schumacher: No not all gone away. I knew that I lost a little bit of time but to me not a great deal because I got the car back just enough not to run too wide on the kerbs and there lose a lot of traction, so no, I knew that it would be close but seeing how close and seeing what we have done, it gave me good satisfaction.
Q: There is only one corner before the first intermediate point but we were just working out you were actually fourth quickest when you got there and then you had the moment as well so it was quite something to get it back?
Schumacher: Well, the fourth quickest, I think it was only Kimi who was exceptionally quick in that area, who was about two tenths quicker than the rest and then everybody else was within hundreds and thousands and probably so was I at fourth, but yeah, on top I had the moment. My personal situation showed me a good sector time so I was not worried for the first sector at least, it was just down to the last sector to keep the tires together and just have a clean run and not have the wobble in the last corner as yesterday.
Q: What is it about the kerbs here, it is almost as if they tempt the drivers to use them more, particularly the first and last corners and a little bit in the second?
Schumacher: The last corner, I think, is probably the most specific case because you can use quite a bit of it on the inside and sometimes it drives you wide and if you go beyond the first section of kerb you come to this very special sector of kerb and that just pulls you out and if you go there you lose a lot of time. You are sort of tempted to over-push a little bit all the time and yeah I have struggled and as we have seen some other guys.
Q: Is that going to be the case in the race or less so?
Schumacher: I think I have made enough experience yesterday so I hope that is enough for me.
Q: Kimi, are you looking forward to the view on the grid tomorrow a little but more than you did in Spain ?
Raikkonen: Yeah, I think so. It is much better now. In Spain I was at the other end and it wasn't really a good race for me but now everything seems to be okay and it was quite a good qualifying.
Q: Did you think you had done enough for pole position?
Raikkonen: I knew that it was going to be close and, okay, it was a bit unlucky that we didn't get the first place but the front row is always a good place to start.
Q: It seemed to be a very clean lap. How was it?
Raikkonen: Yeah, it was a pretty good lap. It was the first time this year that I got my qualifying lap together and it was quite a good time for that. It just helps you during the race if you can start on the front row or even on the second row and there is an interesting race coming tomorrow.
Q: So, knowing what your strategy is going to be for the race tomorrow, how is the feeling starting from the front?
Raikkonen: I think we have a very good chance to win the race. Of course, we don't know what the other teams are doing but we are quite confident that we have a good strategy for tomorrow.
Q: Juan Pablo, given that you have had a fairly difficult weekend you must be pretty pleased with third?
Montoya: Yeah it wasn't, you know, that difficult. The car was pretty good yesterday - it wasn't quick enough but it felt pretty good. Today we did some changes and it was a lot quicker and I think we have a really good race car and it will be interesting tomorrow.
Q: What about the lap itself?
Montoya: It was okay. The first sector I took a bit easy because everyone was making a mistake in turn one. In the morning I did a pretty similar time to Kimi but it was right on the limit and it is so easy to lose the car there that I know how to do a sector time without making any mistakes and it seemed to come off.
Q: Given that the car is reliable, at least we saw at the last race it was reliable, what are the chances for the race tomorrow?
Montoya: I think it is very good. Like I said, I think we have a very good race car and we will see how good it is.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Some of the later drivers seemed to be a bit all over the track. Michael, as you were the last one out did the track seem especially dirty or slippery to you?
Schumacher: Indeed, there was quite a bit of dirt on the circuit accelerating out of the first corner which you naturally carry into the first corner and then the exit of turn one was not particularly clean as well but that was the same for Rubens.
Q: Were you told to take it a bit easier because of that?
Schumacher: No, you always drive to your circumstances and that is that.
Q: Juan Pablo, when you came around the final corner here David Coulthard had been off and there were some stones on the circuit there. Were you aware of those?
Montoya: No I wasn't and it was a bit of a surprise when I turned up and I saw all that but it didn't seem to affect anything.
Q: Kimi, yesterday you were one second slower than Michael but today you were almost on the same time. Was it set-up or fuel level?
Raikkonen: No, I would say we had some difficulties yesterday with the set-up and this morning we found quite a good set-up and improved in the second practice and I think that is the difference. We have always been not so quick compared to other cars on Fridays but we seem to always find the time for Saturday. The Friday is always more practice than anything else and providing you get a reasonably good time on Fridays it doesn't really matter.
Q: For the two Michelin drivers, yesterday your team-mates were complaining about the graining on the front tires. How is the situation today?
Montoya: Well, we get a little graining but on our car this doesn't seem to affect the pace too much.
Raikkonen: Yeah, I think the situation is much better than yesterday and I don't think we have anything to worry about for the race.
Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:09.150): "I am very happy with this pole position. Seeing how close the times were, this result is very satisfying. At the second corner, I had a little wobble but I did not lose too much time because I was able to catch it before the apex and so I did not run off the track and lose traction. After that, I had a good run. Thanks to good work with the engineers, my car has been perfectly balanced since Friday. As for the chance of rain for the race, I feel that in the team we are prepared for anything. I must say that the fact that the FIA can now authorize the use of a tire for heavy rain conditions is a wise decision from a safety point of view."
Rubens Barrichello (5th, 1:09.784): "After yesterday's performance I must admit I did not expect to be as far back as fifth on the grid. On my lap the track was not perfectly clean. But I went down a different route to my team-mate in terms of the car and I hope it will pay off in the race. It is sure to be an interesting race tomorrow, as this is a track where one usually sees plenty of overtaking. I hope I will be the one doing most of it!"
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was a really exciting qualifying session. Michael managed to take pole position with a lap which saw him having to work very hard, while Rubens, who made different choices to his teammate, did not quite manage to get the most out of his car and qualified fifth. Splitting our two drivers on the grid are cars from three different teams. Of course, we do not know how much fuel our rivals have on board and tomorrow we can expect a difficult and closely fought race. We know that our package - drivers, car, Bridgestone tires and Shell fuel - puts us in a position to fight for the win. The championship is turning out to be very tight, so it is very important to always get both cars home in the points. That will therefore be our main objective tomorrow and reliability will be the key to reaching it."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "It was a very tough session. With the new rules you have to find the balance between qualifying performance and race strategy. Being on pole by a few hundredths of a second mean's that objective has been reached. Michael made a mistake at Turn 2 and we did not think he had a chance, but he got a fantastic result. The car was very good, especially in the second sector. Bridgestone have provided us with very good tires, especially in terms of the race. Tomorrow, we can expect both our drivers to do well."
Juan Pablo Montoya (3rd, 1:09.391): "After following a different philosophy with our set-up today, we have been fairly consistent through practice, warm up and qualifying doing 1:09.3 laps, so I think this was as quick as the car could go in qualifying without taking any risks. It is difficult to know what fuel levels the other guys are on, but I am sure that we have a very good race set-up which will give us a strong race pace for tomorrow."
Ralf Schumacher (10th, 1:10.279): "After I had spun off during yesterday's first qualifying, today I had to cope with the disadvantage of being first on the track, and of course there is less grip at the start of the session. Although the car was quite well balanced by the end of this morning's practice, it wasn't quite right for qualifying and it felt a bit nervous. As a consequence, I could not get it together which was made worse by a little mistake I made early on when I lost some tenths in the first corner. So it wasn't a good lap, and as a consequence, maybe I should not be too disappointed with my grid position. It is going to be a tough race here as overtaking is pretty difficult on this circuit."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "With Juan, we are close to the front row and we are quite confident of both drivers having a good race tomorrow with the strategy we are on. We are looking forward to see how the cars will perform in the race."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "All in all it was a good qualifying session for the team. Ralf had to cope with the handicap of being the roadsweeper, so we could not have expected much more than tenth place. Juan Pablo was very quick but unfortunately he did not get the first corner 100% correct, or he would have been fighting for pole today. However, 3rd is a good position from which to start the race."
Kimi Raikkonen (2nd, 1:09.189): "I'm pleased with today's result particularly after my qualifying at the last race, the view from the front of the grid is definitely better than from the back. I drove an almost perfect lap, which is the first time I have done that in qualifying this year. It was close but unfortunately I just missed out on my first pole. We have improved the car from yesterday and its working well. I'm looking forward to starting from the front row tomorrow and am confident that we have the right strategy so we should have a competitive race."
David Coulthard (14th, 1:10.893): "I have been struggling with the balance throughout the weekend and didn't have the confidence to attack. I ran wide at the last corner which cost me some time, but to be honest I don't think the lap would have been that good anyway. I'm disappointed but we will see what happens tomorrow."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "As always the team has concentrated on optimizing the race performance throughout the weekend's practice sessions which make Kimi's front row position even more satisfying. David's comments summarize well the problems he has had so far, but we expect that his race will also benefit from our strategy."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A super performance by Kimi and the entire team. Kimi missed out on pole position with less than half of a tenth. However it's tomorrow that counts, and our strategy for the race will be good. A shame for David, a mistake in the last corner cost him a better result."
Jarno Trulli (6th, 1:09.890): "I am very happy with my sixth place, considering that it was a tough qualifying for everybody, on a very dirty track. This morning's hard work on the set up paid off as I felt that the car balance was perfect in qualifying. I feel good and ready to attack in tomorrow's race and my objective is definitely to bring home some points for the team."
Fernando Alonso (19th, 1:20.113): "This morning I felt the car more competitive than yesterday, thanks to some changes the team did last night. In qualifying my lap started very well but I made a mistake that took me off the track and put me at the back of the grid. In spite of this, I feel confident I can make my way up in tomorrow's race and, who knows - even score some points."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "A good clean lap from Jarno. Considering our race strategy, we are extremely pleased with his sixth place on the grid. Unfortunately for Fernando, the penalty you pay for one mistake under the one-lap-qualifying rule is very high and it will be very hard for him to score points, starting so far back. Nevertheless we will try our best, knowing that anything can happen on this tough circuit."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Mixed feelings today, as we have a big gap on the starting grid between our two drivers. Jarno did an excellent lap, pushing the car to the limit. Fernando started equally well but made a mistake, which cost him a position which would have been very close to Jarno's. Engine-wise, today we found again a good level of performance, which is very encouraging for the race."
Nick Heidfeld (4th, 1:09.725): "I am very happy with the result, particularly under such circumstances! During the warm-up I experienced a problem with my race car and therefore had to change to the spare. Thank you to my team for the good work, because it was exactly the same car, but quicker!"
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (15th, 1:11.307): "My position is what I have expected after the practice sessions this morning. We were still not happy with the car's balance and therefore chose a rather conservative approach to qualifying and the race."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "I am very happy about Nick's fourth place, for two reasons. First he had to change to the T-car, which the regulations prohibited us from running prior to that point. Then it also requires a lot of trust in the team and the equipment to give everything under such circumstances, over a single all-out lap. Congratulations to Nick for the quick lap and his strong nerves! We opted for a different strategy for Heinz-Harald, which didn't allow him the chance to achieve a similar result."
Giancarlo Fisichella (9th, 1:10.105): "We are happy because we met our target, which was to be in the top ten. I am 9th, and without a mistake in the last corner, I think maybe I could have been 8th. I'm optimistic about tomorrow and hope to score points. The weather forecast is very uncertain so we will have to wait and see."
Ralph Firman (16th, 1:11.505): "I had a good first sector but after that there was too much understeer so I lost time over the rest of the lap. I think the circuit changed a bit in the fifteen minutes between warm-up and qualifying. We've got a good race car and there's no reason why we can't score some points."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "That was a fairly interesting session, with a lot of mistakes, our guys made some as well, but 9th and 16th is not too bad. We were hoping to get in the top ten and it's somewhere we can work from tomorrow. We haven't done anything stupid with strategy so I think we can have a reasonable race from our positions. It was interesting to see people flying off the road so I hope it made good TV!"
Antonio Pizzonia (8th, 1:10.045): "We made some set-up adjustments to the car during the morning warm-up and the results are good. I am, however, slightly disappointed not to have done better because of an error in turn six where I think I lost around three tenths. The margin separating the top ten is one second and three-tenths would have put in P5. Nonetheless, given the improvements we made to the car this morning, I am very happy and looking forward to racing tomorrow. The balance and power is very much suited to this circuit and my aim is to chase for my first points tomorrow. Michelin have again done their homework and the team has done an excellent job of preparing the Jaguar R4 this weekend. We haven't suffered from any unreliability issues and pace has been very competitive. We must finish tomorrow's race and aim to top-up our points tally which Mark kicked-off in Barcelona two weeks ago."
Mark Webber (17th, 1:11.662): "A big shame given the potential of the car but there was little I could do. Jacques (Villeneuve) did a great job of messing up the track and compromising grip. It's a tight track and given how close the lap times are between teams, everyone is pushing that extra bit further for an extra tenth and these things happen. The car has been performing very impressively all weekend and to have missed out on its true potential is disappointing, but that's one-lap qualifying for you! It's a long race tomorrow and with some clever strategy work, I'm sure we can still make a significant contribution to the race tomorrow, albeit starting from 17th on the grid."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "An excellent performance from Antonio today and simply unlucky for Mark! Our preparation going into the qualifying hour and subsequently the race has been very comprehensive and positive. We spent the morning warm-up sessions working on tires and fuel loads in an effort to optimise our strategy for tomorrow. The balance of the Jaguar R4 has been very good and both drivers are happy with the performance. Antonio obviously got the best out of the qualifying hour and we are all delighted for him. He has kept his head down and focused very diligently on the job in hand all weekend and assuming we are reliable tomorrow, he should be well-placed to make a points challenge. Mark was unlucky today in that he followed Jacques Villeneuve out onto the track and suffered in the dust and debris that Jacques had left in his wake. Mark was clearly struggling for grip in those corners but these things happen. He has had a tremendous run of qualifying performances and you cannot win them all. The main thing is that we have not compromised our race strategy for tomorrow and given how well the car has been performing all weekend, we are quite positive and upbeat going into the race tomorrow."
Jenson Button (7th, 1:09.935): "I'm quite satisfied with my lap because I had too much oversteer practically all the way round. It wasn't a very tidy lap because I was on the verge of being out of control. There wasn't enough grip out there but I was giving it maximum attack and pushing as hard as I could - a little bit too much in the last corner because I ran wide. We've been struggling to find the right balance all weekend and qualifying showed we're not quite on top of that. Having said that, we've been very competitive so far, so I'm optimistic. Seventh on the grid gives us a lot of chances, and because there have been so many surprises today, a podium is not beyond the realms of possibility. Before I make any predictions though, I'd better wait and see what happens in the race!"
Jacques Villeneuve (12th, 1:10.618): "The car felt amazing on old tires this morning but we couldn't get the best out of new tires this afternoon. I tried to compensate but I drove too aggressively and made a big mistake in turn one, which basically cost me the lap. 12th isn't too bad because a mistake like that could have cost more. We should be OK for the race because the car is very quick in race trim. A lot of people were trying too hard today and I was one of them. If you do a slow out-lap to look after the tires you can end up going too slow and you don't get enough heat in them. It's a difficult balance and the one's who got it wrong are the one's who made mistakes. This is a good track for overtaking and our grid position doesn't reflect our actual speed, so it should be a fun race. It's always a very interesting first lap here and the people who survive that end up having a fun race. I hope I'm one of them."
David Richards, Team Principal: "Today's qualifying session proved just how tricky this low-grip track can be, with a surprising number of drivers making mistakes. Jenson got away with a minor error on the last corner, whilst Jacques lost most of his time on the very first corner. Nonetheless, we're feeling very positive about our potential race performance tomorrow, albeit concerned about what the weather might bring as the forecast is for rain in the morning."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "Today was a rather mixed day for the team compared with Friday. In the morning we had an hydraulic leak on Jenson's car, which lost him the second half of the first session. We had an otherwise productive morning and by warm-up we felt we had a good race set-up on both cars. Qualifying was rather less satisfactory. Jenson got a quick, if rather ragged, lap but Jacques made a mistake on turn one, costing him over half a second. We've been competitive all weekend and we feel we have a good strategy for tomorrow's race. Given the very mixed-up nature of the grid there is a high likelihood of a first-corner incident. With one of our cars starting from the middle of the field, it will be important to stay out of trouble on the first lap."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Although we expected higher grid positions we have shown that the car has been competitive all weekend so I'm confident we can score points tomorrow."
Justin Wilson (18th, 1:14.508): "It's very disappointing. I seemed to pick up a chassis imbalance, which caused a problem in qualifying. The weekend started really well, but we seem to have had difficulties in the afternoons, so perhaps they are track or temperature-related. We'll now just have to concentrate on the race and work out a good strategy for tomorrow."
Jos Verstappen (20th, No Time): "That was a real shame not to have completed qualifying, because we made some good progress on aerodynamic work this morning and had a good balance in the chassis by the end of the practice session. As a result, I think we could have been in 16th or 17th position on the grid for tomorrow's race. The problem in qualifying first showed itself on my flying lap, as I was braking into Turn 1 and downshifting, and suddenly had a big, oversteering slide. I then started to shift up through the gears as I exited the corner, but when I got to fifth gear, there was just no drive. Hopefully, we will have better luck tomorrow."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "After what started as a very promising weekend, today was fraught with misfortune. It began with Justin's brush with the barriers at the first corner in the morning practice session, which necessitated him using the spare car for qualifying, and was followed by a disastrous qualifying session, in which he was unable to match his earlier pace. Adding to the woes, Jos's qualifying effort was then curtailed by a fifth-gear failure at the start of his flying lap. We can only hope for a better day on Sunday."
Olivier Panis (11th, 1:10.402): "We have had a difficult weekend and the car simply hasn't been right for this track. I think I did a good job in qualifying today and it was a respectable lap given the circumstances. Obviously we are not quick enough but the team has worked well to improve the car little by little over the weekend, and I think we are on a good strategy for tomorrow. Starting from 11th is not bad, so we'll see what happens in the race."
Cristiano Da Matta (13th, 1:10.834): "I am quite happy with my qualifying lap and my overall performance. The track appeared to be a little slower than this morning, but still the time is not good and it has been a tough weekend so far. We have been struggling ever since the first practice session yesterday. We have to dig a little deeper to find the answers to why our car is not going well this weekend. We'll keep working on it."
Keizo Takahashi, General Manager, Car Design and Development: "Both drivers, Olivier and Cristiano, did their best and really pushed hard in qualifying today, but we suffered from a lack of track grip. The cars were in much better shape than they were yesterday but the set-up is still not as good as it should be, so I am a little bit disappointed. We still have a chance to challenge for championship points tomorrow, and it goes without saying that we will do our best."