MAY 31, 2003
MONACO GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT
Faites vos jeux!
Walk into the Casino at Monte Carlo and find yourself a roulette table. You may know the inner workings of the mechanisms and the statistical odds of this and that, but when it comes to putting the chips down on the table you know that in the end it all comes down to how you are getting on with Lady Luck. If you are and she are arm in arm then you may go home a winner but there is always the risk that you will go home without your shirt.
At the moment Formula 1 is a bit like that because the two tire companies are so competitive that a change in temperature of just a few degrees can swing the balance from one company to the next. And it is not just about ultimate performance. One must take into account not only the speed of a tire but also its consistency and the way in which it performs at any given moment. It's complicated. It's fascinating. It's impossible to explain. And it is all dependent on the temperature. There was a time when Formula 1 tires were an easy subject. Everyone got the same stuff and it was how you used them that was important, but now it is very different. And the performance parameters must also now be played alongside strategic and even commercial issues. Companies need their products to look good at certain moments. And in F1 - Monaco is that moment - for this is the time when the world focusses on the Grand Prix game.
On Thursday the first practice sessions seemed to suggest that Ferrari would be the dominant force of the weekend. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello were well ahead of everyone else. But some of the rival teams literally did not believe their eyes. It was said that Ferrari was probably using soft tires and qualifying settings simply to get a good place in the running order for final qualifying on Saturday. It is a logical thing to do for the track at Monaco usually gets faster during a session as more and more rubber is put down on the road. This is not as big a change as it used to be when all the cars were running at the same time in the final minutes of a final qualifying session but, even with one car running at a time, conditions are different.
On Saturday afternoon it was hot. The Michelin tires like warmer conditions. The Bridgestone tires do not and they were not lasting for an entire lap. The result was that eight cars in the top 10 were on Michelin.
At Monaco qualifying is important - for overtaking is tough - but tire performance is also an issue because the tires used in qualifying must be used in the race as well and it is a question of how they clean up and how consistent is the performance before the rubber begins to deteriorate.
And so one can draw few conclusions from what happened in qualifying. It formed the grid but the race would be a different story and which story it would be could depend on the weather. Starting from fifth and seventh on the grid meant that Ferrari would have to watch out for first lap incidents and at the same time the drivers would have to work hard to win. Michael Schumacher may have amazing talent but winning at Monaco from fifth on the grid is not that easy to achieve.
The funny thing about qualifying for Monaco this year was that the only Bridgestone-shod car which seemed to be working on Saturday morning was Jenson Button's BAR and it never made it to qualifying as in the second morning session Jenson crashed heavily at the exit of the tunnel. The car hit the barrier and then went back across the road and into the wall on the harbor side. The car then slid across the chicane and went hard into the barrier, just as Karl Wendlinger did in 1994. It is a testament to the safety measures since then that Button was not seriously hurt. He had a nasty bang on the head but there was nothing life-threatening. Jenson wasn't feeling great but he was not in a coma for two weeks.
With Button out of the way the field was left open for the Michelin teams and early in the session we had the unlikely situation of Cristiano da Matta leading the way. Toyota had struggled on Thursday and da Matta's turn of speed was a bit of a surprise. More surprising was that he stayed on top as five different drivers tried to beat him. It was not until Fernando Alonso, who had not had a good day on Thursday, came out that da Matta's time was put into some perspective. The Spaniard's effort stayed on top until Kimi Raikkonen put it into perspective and ultimately Ralf Schumacher was able to carve a tiny margin off Kimi's best. Juan Pablo Montoya was third but the last four runners, whom one might have expected to have done better all failed to make a big splash. Coulthard complained that his car, so quick in the morning, was sliding about a bit too much and Trulli felt, not surprisingly, that the Renault engine was a bit short of grunt. That left the Ferraris and while both looked quite good they faded at the end of the lap. It was all very close but in the end the top eight cars were all covered by six-tenths of a second.
Raikkonen reckoned that pole would have been his if he had not hit a curb in the Swimming Pool area as hard as he had done. Coulthard's problems meant that he was sixth.
Given the pre-race puff much was expected of Renault but in the end the cars did not look that great. Trulli was fourth fastest and very happy but Fernando Alonso spoiled his chances by whamming a wall on Saturday morning and so had to settle for eighth.
The Jaguars were good but not as good as they have been in other places but Mark Webber was happy with his ninth place and looking forward to the race because the cars have been very reliable and Webber felt that with the strategy chosen he would be in a position to show well in the race. Antonio Pizzonia had to make do with 13th place on the grid but it was a good solid performance by the man who was under such pressure a few weeks ago.
The biggest surprise was probably da Matta's 10th. The Toyota is clearly not a great car and the team struggled with it. There was a suspicion of course that da Matta was running with less fuel that others in order to make the Toyota look a bit better than it was. Olivier Panis, a previous Monaco winner remember, was down in 17th and miserable.
BAR had looked strong and Villeneuve's 11th position was not a bad effort to a Bridgestone runner. Jacques said he was confident that he would do well in the race. Next up was Giancarlo Fisichella in his Jordan and with Ralph Firman 15th on the grid the team was looking to a strong race performance and points at the end of the day, a similar wish to the Saubers and Minardis which were struggling along.
Monaco is all about finishing and with only 10 teams the chance of scoring points was a high one for everyone. In fact such is the attrition rate at Monaco that getting eight cars to the finish may be an issue.
When the cars went into parc ferme, the die were cast; the chips were down; the roulette wheel was spinning and the croupier said "Rien ne va plus..."
POST QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE - SATURDAY MAY 31, 2003
1. Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), 1m15.259s
2. Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), 1m15.295s (+ 0.036s)
3. Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), 1m15.415s (+ 0.156s)
Q: Ralf, tell us about Monaco under these new qualifying regulations?
Ralf SCHUMACHER: Especially, here, as you saw with Kimi on Thursday, it's very easy to make a mistake and just be at the back. It's a great achievement given all the problems and pressure we've had from the outside for the team; it's a great result, definitely.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the changes you made to the cars overnight since Thursday?
Schumacher: Obviously I can't, but there was a lot going on, good new ideas. The team, since the beginning of the year, has changed a lot anyway and things go a lot better, although we still seem to have some difficulties on different circuits this year. But being here today is simply great.
Q: You were fastest on sector two, which I think includes the swimming pool section...
Schumacher: I had some difficulties there last year so that's why I concentrated a little bit more on that sector.
Q: What words did you exchange with your brother at the weigh-in afterwards?
Schumacher: I just asked him what the problem was and it simply looks to me as if (it is) the Michelins - but we know that the Michelin is better anyway - but he told me it was definitely today.
Q: It is much closer today than it was between Michelin and Bridgestone on Thursday - how do you account for that?
Schumacher: Well, the Bridgestone seems to be a tire that has a good performance under slippery circumstances when there is a bit of dust and the circuit is not too hot. But as soon as there is rubber on the track we seem to have the upper hand, which is good.
Q: Kimi , you obviously qualified sooner than these other guys here. How much of a disadvantage was that?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: Of course, the circuit always gets a bit better but I wouldn't say that it's a massive difference. But if you get to chose when to start then it's as late as possible.
Q: It was very close wasn't it? If you just change the last two numerals of your lap time around you could be on the pole?
Raikkonen: Ah yeah. It's the same situation as it was last race, now it's just a different car but what can I do? I did my best but it wasn't enough. I think the front row is a really good starting place and I think the start could make a big difference in the race. If you get the first place at the start it's a big bonus but we will see what happens tomorrow.
Q: You seemed to struggle a little bit at Monaco last year - you qualified sixth and you had a shunt on Thursday. Do you feel much more comfortable at this circuit this year?
Raikkonen: Yeah, and last year was pretty much? I think I shunted every day at least once. If you have an accident, it's going to cost you so much time so that the set-up is really bad. This year I've taken it a bit easier, I've got more experience and I think that experience makes a big difference in the end. The first qualifying wasn't very good but I wasn't really too worried about that because I knew what was wrong and we changed the car a lot and from this morning we improved the car a lot and it was good in qualifying.
Q: Juan Pablo, how was it for you?
Juan Pablo MONTOYA: I think we had a good balance. I think we had a little bit too much bottoming but it's okay. I think we've got a good race car and that's the most important thing. I think we're in a good position. I think it's very important for the team, the way it's moved forward, and last week in testing we did a lot of steps forward. I think the team is understanding the car a lot better and that really helps.
Q: You seem to have been very quick on sector three - does that mean anything?
Montoya: Not really. This morning I was very strong in sector one and I probably lost most of my time from where I could have done this morning in sector one, probably. Sector three was a surprise, that I was quickest at the time.
Q: It's the first time that the team has gone so well in qualifying. Is the feeling within Williams BMW that you could potentially be on the front row here?
Montoya: You never know here, especially with the new rules, with fuel, you don't know who's doing what. But we seem to have a very consistent car and I think it's going to be a close fight with McLaren tomorrow.
Q: Ralf, there are some circuit changes at Monaco this year. Can you tell us about those?
Schumacher: As many of you know, I was always critical about this circuit but they've done a great job. Anyway, the marshalling is the best in the world, I would say - well, it has to be in this place. But the changes that they've made here have made it far more enjoyable to drive as well as safer.
Q: Can you go into those changes? Are you talking about the track surface as much as the?
Schumacher: The track surface obviously, but also the re-cornering in the swimming pool area. The only thing that I think that they also have to do is resurface the other part of the track. It would great if they could find the money for that.
Q: A great lap time, very fast. Is that indicative of those circuit changes as much as it is the improvement in the cars?
Schumacher: It is. The circuit is a lot quicker and gives you more confidence to push even more through the swimming pool area.
Q: Given your problems in qualifying so far this year, and your love affair with Monaco , do you like it a bit more now, Ralf?
Schumacher: It's a great place to drive, that's for sure, but only if the car is good anyway. If it's not, and you have balance problems, then you're in deep problems here. But I've always complained a bit about the safety side, nothing else. Driving here is great.
Q: Were you a bit alarmed at that time by McLaren this morning?
Schumacher: Oh yes, I was very much surprised. I obviously knew that Kimi didn't have a good qualifying on Thursday, but looking at the times this morning we didn't think we would be that strong to be honest. But we made quite a few changes in the morning and then just gradually built up to it.
Q: How much of a margin do you leave around here?
Schumacher: It's a difficult decision to take since we've had this one lap qualifying. You can't really leave a lot of margin, and that's why I spun in Austria and you do the same here.
Q: What about the start tomorrow? Last year David Coulthard out-accelerated Juan Pablo off the line. What do you reckon?
Schumacher: Well, the two cars do have a good starting history. Let's wait and see what happens. It will be exciting into the first corner, I guess. I hope all of us come around without any stupid mistakes or accidents and go into the race from there.
Q: Kimi , what sort of margin have you been leaving around here? You went fairly early in qualifying as well?
Raikkonen: Yeah, but I think it's more important here to go as quick as possible because one place can make a big difference in the race. Okay, you want to keep the car out of the walls and try to do a good lap. So I got quite a good lap, not quick enough for pole but I'm quite happy with that.
Q: Remembering what David did from second on the grid last year, does that give you hope?
Raikkonen: Yeah, but it's a different year and everything is different, but you never know. It all depends on how the launch control works and if it's good, as we hope, then maybe we can get the first place. But like Ralf said, we will see tomorrow.
Q: There's a new pit lane this year. How much does that enter into the strategy of things?
Raikkonen: I don't think it makes very much difference. I think it's much safer as it is now, because last year you just came and there would easily have been some accidents and now it's much, much better.
Q: Did you think you had pole position after you set the time?
Raikkonen: I hoped but it was pretty much the same situation as it was at the last race and maybe next time?
Q: Juan, is it going to be an advantage starting behind Ralf?
Montoya: Erm ?why?
Q: Just with the two of you on that side of the grid?
Montoya: Well, no. When Michael went out I said to my engineer it would be good in a way if Michael was ahead of us because basically last year the left-hand side was a lot quicker. I was a bit surprised at Michael being so slow.
Q: Have you been surprised by Ferrari in that they were quickest in the first sector and then relatively slow in the others?
Montoya: The first sector is three corners - it is really nothing. Where you really can make the time is in the second sector, that is where you can make a big difference. The first sector and last sector is very little time and if you do a good second sector you will be pretty competitive.
Q: Now Michelin were first to fourth in that session. How important do you think that was to the three of you up there?
Montoya: Well, it seemed that Bridgestone had pretty soft tires for the first day and a harder tire for the race and in a way it is good for us that they couldn't run the soft tire, I would imagine.
Q: You were on pole last year, so third this year. Happy?
Montoya: In a way I am amazed. I thought I was going to be P6 or P7. In the morning the car felt a lot better than it did in qualifying and I am certain I have got a good car for the race and it will be a matter of time to see what happens.
Q: The temperature went up quite sharply in the 15 minutes before the start of qualifying. Did that make a big difference?
Montoya: Not really. I think the level of grip on the car was good. The second sector was not as good as it could have been and that was it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Can all the three drivers give some comments on the swimming pool area and the entrance to La Rascasse ?
Montoya: The entrance of the swimming pool is the same. The Rascasse is a bit different, it is safer?no, probably not safer, just cheaper for the teams!
Schumacher: Well, yeah, it is a big effort for them to change the circuit like that and it is good because it was always easy to make a stupid mistake into Rascasse and that was it, end of story, and as Juan Pablo said it was very expensive at the same time as annoying. It is a good change and the swimming pool area was bumpy in some areas and the new tarmac seems to be good.
Q: What did you think when your brother Michael was out on track?
Schumacher: I was surprised. When I saw the first sector I said ?whoops, it's going to be tight' but then he made a slight mistake into the corner that was called Loews corner, I don't know what it is called now, and I was very surprised that even in the second sector he seemed to lose somewhere else as well. It is great for us, certainly, but we expected him to out qualify us.
Q: Kimi ,McLaren have said this car is not a qualifying car. How do you judge it in comparison to the others?
Raikkonen: I think it is still not a qualifying car, like they said, but it seems to be working well this year and it has always been better with more fuel in the car than how it was last year when we were qualifying on low fuel for one lap. We never really got the best out of it like the other teams and it is a bit the same situation now when we are running on the Fridays, or here Thursday, that we are a bit far away from the others but we know that and that is why we don't worry so much and once we and all the other guys put fuel in the car it seems to be going well.
Q: Because of the exit of the pit lane, Sainte Devote has changed a little with the new kerb now. Do you think it could influence the start tomorrow?
Schumacher: Well, Charlie (Whiting) will watch it pretty carefully anyway and whoever cuts it and gains a position will be reported to the stewards and get a drive-through penalty so I think it is in nobody's interests to gain anything but at least there is a bit more space in case we need it. I think it is not a bad idea.
Q: We have eight Michelin cars in the top ten positions. Do you think if the weather is going to be the same tomorrow this is an indicator for the race?
Raikkonen: I hope so, but I don't know. I think the Michelin seems to be working a bit better in these hot conditions so hopefully it will be even hotter and we will have a bigger advantage.
Schumacher: The conditions seemed to work for us. We did a lot of testing in the last two tests to be prepared for this race and they have done a great job. Last year we struggled a bit after our long runs and so I am pretty sure after what I have seen today and this morning that we are pretty well prepared, we made a good tire choice and I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Q: Kimi , it is your third time here. Do you think just from a driving point of view that you have something to learn from this track and how do you like it?
Raikkonen: Yeah, I like the circuit but it is very difficult and the experience here makes it a much bigger difference than other places and really this morning I started to find a bit better lines around the circuit and we got the set-up working quite well and every year you will feel a bit better, more confident and quicker, but it is not too bad now and hopefully it is much better this year.
Q: Now you have a very good opportunity to keep Michael behind you in the world championship. Are you going to take risks to win the race or are you going to go cautiously to get some good points.
Raikkonen: We will try to win the race but we will see how it will go in the race and if you see that there is no chance to win then you need to take whatever is available. So I will take the best shot that I can to try to win it but so will all the other drivers so we will see.
Q: Kimi , both Rubens and Michael lost a lot of time in the last sector and that would suggest that they have problems with the tires. But they are going to use the same tire tomorrow that they did today and they are at the back of the grid. Do you think it is an advantage for you?
Raikkonen: Yes, for sure it is going to help us but we don't know how well they are doing on the longer runs and from what I have seen on my car when we did longer runs it seems to be very good and I am quite confident that we will be quite good tomorrow and hopefully we can have a bigger advantage in the points after this race.
Michael Schumacher (5th, 1:15.644): "Obviously, I am not happy with this result, but I am not particularly concerned about it. I drove a lap which was error free. Right from this morning, we could see we were not as competitive in the second and third sectors. One explanation could be that, over the course of the weekend, the track has picked up more rubber and the performance level of the tires over a single lap seems to have changed. However, this does not necessarily mean that the situation will be the same tomorrow. In fact, I still believe we have made a good choice for the race and we will only find out tomorrow how much fuel the cars have really got on board."
Rubens Barrichello (7th, 1:15.820): "This was not our best qualifying day. The car was going well, but it just was not fast enough. Now we will have to see what level of fuel the cars ahead of us are running. This result has not affected my confidence as far as the race is concerned."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "After a closely fought qualifying session, we have recorded our least satisfactory result of the season so far, at a track where the grid position is very important. However, there is still a question mark over the amount of fuel the drivers have chosen to go to the start with. We will only find out the truth during the race. It is clear that if those who are ahead of us today can do a similar number of laps to us, then we will be in a difficult situation. However, if we can stay out on the track for longer, then we can be in the running right to the end. Monte Carlo is the longest race of the year in terms of time, on a track which is pretty demanding on both car and driver. As usual, reliability will be the key and our main objective is to get both cars to the finish."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "It would have been nicer to be on pole of course, but until we see how the race develops tomorrow, in terms of the different fuel loads our competitors are using, it is very difficult to make an accurate judgement. The car was well balanced and we had no real problems. Now, we must just wait and see what happens in the race."
Ralf Schumacher (1st, 1:15.259): "Looking at this morning's times I really did not expect to be on pole today and obviously I am very pleased about my second pole. Driving in Monaco is a great challenge and if your car has the right balance then it is a true pleasure. I must say thanks to the whole team for the great job they have done and also to Michelin for their tires which seem to be very consistent here. We have all had a couple of hard weeks and achieving this success feels very good now. However, tomorrow is the day that really counts. We are going to have an exciting start and race tomorrow and I am really looking forward to it."
Juan Pablo Montoya (3rd, 1:15.415): "The car had a good balance even if on my qualifying lap my car was bottoming and I lost some time because of it. We have a good and consistent car for the race and both Ralf and myself are starting from good positions. It is important for the team what we have achieved today. It is clear that the team now understands the car more and can better exploit the potential of the FW25."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "An excellent qualifying for the team. All the engineers and drivers put a lot of effort into improving the car since Thursday's practice. The changes that we made to the set-up on both cars were clearly significant. It is good to see our cars at the front on a circuit that is all about downforce and chassis performance."
Gerhard Berger, BMW Motorsport Director: "You need to get a very good lap in order to be on the front row in Monte Carlo. Ralf has produced a fantastic performance, today. All the team has done a stunning job, congratulations to all. Since Thursday we have turned the situation to our favor and also the tires worked very well here today. I only hope we will have a better start than last year and that there will be an FW25 leading out of the first corner. Should this happen, we can even begin to think about winning the race. I believe we look good in terms of strategy."
Kimi Raikkonen (2nd, 1:15.295): "To start from the front row in Monaco is very important, so second is good and I'm looking forward to an exciting race tomorrow. However I'm a bit disappointed not to get pole position as like in Austria two weeks ago I was extremely close, but I guess it will be my time sooner or later. In hindsight perhaps I hit the curb a bit too hard at the Swimming Pool chicane so I lost some time there. Monaco is a place where experience is important and I feel more comfortable here this year than last year. Now we will see what happens tomorrow."
David Coulthard (6th, 1:15.700): "I had a very good set up during this morning's free practice which was reflected by my lap time. We then made some adjustments after the warm up which was intended to further improve the car for the race. Unfortunately this caused some understeer and I also got it wrong at the Swimming Pool chicane which ultimately ruined my lap."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "A good performance by the team. Our grid positions are not quite what we expected but still give both drivers the opportunity to win."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A thrilling qualifying which saw Kimi missing pole by 36 thousands of a second. The fact that the first six drivers are within less than half a second means that we can expect a tough and close race. However Kimi's front row position is a good basis for tomorrow, when strategy will be key for winning the race."
Jarno Trulli (4th, 1:15.500): "A positive weekend for me so far with a very good qualifying position. The team has done a great job and the car has been constantly competitive. I believe we have a good strategy and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race."
Fernando Alonso (8th, 1:15.884): "Considering that this morning's session was spoiled for me by my spin, which made me miss a lot of track time, I am quite satisfied with my qualifying result. I did a good lap and I am happy to start in eight position on tomorrow's grid."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "I am very pleased indeed with the performance and the qualifying positions of both or cars on the grid, which exceeded our expectations. Bearing in mind the key factor of strategy on this circuit and the competitiveness of our car and tires, I feel that we have a very good possibility of a strong result here in Monaco."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "A good qualifying for both drivers which confirms Thursday session's result: a good level of competitiveness. Fernando's performance this afternoon might have been slightly hampered by his lack of practice this morning, due to his accident whereas Jarno's placement corresponds to our objectives."
Nick Heidfeld (14th, 1:17.176): "I had some graining on the rear tires which gave me a lot of oversteer and cost me time in the last corner. My mistake in the middle sector also cost me time. However, we were able to improve the car since Thursday and it felt quite a bit better."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (15th, 1:17.402): "We decided for a rather conservative approach today. The most important thing is to have a solid race. If we can make that we can certainly score points tomorrow."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Without knowing about the strategies of our competitors I had expected better results today. Nick's slow time in the last part of the lap is explained by the heavy tire graining his car suffered."
Giancarlo Fisichella (12th, 1:16.967): "On Thursday our performance level wasn't too bad so I was expecting to be in the top eight today so naturally I am a little disappointed with 12th. We lost a lot of a grip just in the qualifying session and the car was very nervous. Because of that I made quite a few mistakes. I'm more optimistic for the race."
Ralph Firman (16th, 1:17.452): "I had a bit too much understeer towards the end of the lap but things were looking relatively good until then. I'm looking forward to the race as I've really taken to the circuit here and am quite happy with how it's going. I'll push hard tomorrow, try not to touch the walls and hope to score some points."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "I'm disappointed with our positions. It all fell apart a bit when it got hotter and we lost a lot of grip. We have experienced this all year and it's something we've got to chase down. In reality we have to wait until tomorrow and see how the strategies all work out - we've done what we think is reasonable for the race."
Mark Webber (9th, 1:16.237): "Again a productive day all-round that started with me completing a good number of laps in this morning's session and working on race set-up and tires. The team has done a thorough job on the car's preparation both here this weekend and prior at the factory so we are pleased that the hard work is paying off and all three cars remain intact with 100% reliability. Being in the top ten is encouraging and given our strategy I am confident that we can aim for points. Strategy here is so important and looking at the times I am sure that there a few interesting strategies out there in front of us, but of course, until tomorrow we just don't know. Michelin has done another outstanding job for us and this coupled with our strategy will hopefully put us in a good position to move up the grid"
Antonio Pizzonia (13th, 1:17.103): "Today has gone well for me and I am pleased with my qualifying lap. This morning was spent working on race set-up and strategy and the thirty-nine laps that I completed have provided us with some good data. The circuit is notoriously tight and as we have seen this weekend mistakes can be easily made and very costly. The team and I are pleased that we have suffered no issues on the car despite clocking up a high number of laps. The reliability here is as important as the pace but I am certainly looking forward to getting out on track tomorrow and at a circuit that usually has high attrition, there is no reason why we will not be looking to score some points. This is my second home race so lets see what I can do."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "It's been a very satisfying weekend so far and I am more than pleased with the reliability of the R4. The team have been working hard to iron out the last of the gremlins and we certainly seem to be achieving that. We completed a race this morning in terms of number of laps that both Mark and Antonio achieved together and that is encouraging going into tomorrows race. Last year this was a difficult race for us and to be where we are today is testament to the teamwork both on and off-track. Our strategy tomorrow should make us well placed to aim for a good finish, but as we know from experience, this track continues to challenge even the most experienced of drivers and teams. Mark and Antonio have both produced good lap-times and a lot of hard work has gone into this preparation. Lets hope we get rewarded for those efforts!"
Jacques Villeneuve (11th, 1:16.755): "First of all it's good news that Jenson is OK after his crash this morning. On my side, the weekend is shaping up a little bit like Barcelona; we started badly on the first day and then we've continued to improve throughout the weekend. We were able to do some good work with the tires and we've ended up with a car that was competitive in qualifying and race trim, so the day went well. This was roughly where we expected to be given our strategy so I'm just looking forward to the race now."
David Richards, Team Principal: "First and foremost, we are all obviously very relieved that Jenson wasn't injured in what was a very heavy crash this morning. It's a great tribute to the safety of a modern formula one car and all the work that the FIA has done in this respect over the last few years. Jenson is disappointed that he was unable to take part in final qualifying after making such a positive start to the weekend here, but we are optimistic that he will be fit and well for the race tomorrow. Track conditions have obviously changed significantly since we were so competitive at the start of the weekend, but I'm confident that Jacques will be in a strong points-scoring position tomorrow."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "Obviously I'm very happy that Jenson did not sustain any injuries from his heavy crash in morning practice. He was badly shaken up but we hope that he will be fit to race tomorrow. After a good start on Thursday we spent today focusing on race set-up and old tire running. We were making good progress but unfortunately, at the beginning of the second session, Jenson was pushing hard on his first lap on new tires and clipped the Armco on the right side at the exit of the tunnel. He bounced across the track and then hit the tire barrier sideways. This accident has shown that, even with this kind of impact, the combination of tire wall and chassis strength did a good job of protecting the driver. Unfortunately Jenson was unable to take part in qualifying, but Jacques was happy with his car this afternoon. We are optimistic that we can look forward to a strong race performance tomorrow and, hopefully, a points-finish."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Most importantly we're all pleased that Jenson is okay after such a big shunt this morning and I hope he can race tomorrow. Jacques ran well in qualifying and we have shown how competitive we are this weekend so I'm confident of scoring some more points."
Jos Verstappen (18th, 1:18.706): "That was a good lap with a heavy fuel load, so I think our position for the race tomorrow is not looking too bad. The strategy we are using compromised our performance a little today, but there should be a benefit in the race tomorrow. I think the engineers definitely made the right call on this. Anyway, I was very pleased with my qualifying lap, and hopefully, we will now have a good race tomorrow."
Justin Wilson (19th, 1:20.063): "The track was very slippery first thing this morning, but then got quicker and quicker as the day wore on. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a moment going through the swimming pool section on my qualifying run and hit the steering lock stops in both directions trying to correct the resulting slide. The car had understeered through there for most of the morning practice, so I was more aggressive with it in qualifying and used more curb, but the car just didn't like it. Anyway, what's done is done, and now we'll just have to see what happens tomorrow."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "European Minardi Cosworth's final qualifying positions slipped lightly by comparison with yesterday. Nonetheless, we feel we are in good shape for tomorrow's race with the strategy we have chosen. Jos drove a great qualifying lap this afternoon, his experience and knowledge of Monaco obviously contributing to his impressive performance. Justin struggled a bit to get his car handling to his liking, and in the end, perhaps just pushed a bit too hard on his flying lap. Even so, he has done a tremendous job so far this weekend at what is undoubtedly the most mentally demanding circuit on the F1 calendar."
Cristiano Da Matta (10th, 1:16.744): "I didn't expect to be so high up on the grid, let alone getting my best qualifying result of the season. During the lap, I already felt it was going to be a good one. We have made some improvements over the weekend, but there is still a problem with the grip level and we still have a big margin to improve. My driving at this track has been getting better and better and I am very pleased with my lap today. It will be a long and tough race, but our priority should be to complete the race, hopefully in a good position."
Olivier Panis (17th, 1:17.464): "This morning, we noticed that, although we made some small improvements to the car from Thursday, we still have the same problems with a lack of grip. I was really not happy with the car, so we decided to opt for a strategy that is more focussed towards our performance in the race, rather than in today's qualifying. With this in mind, I am pleased with my qualifying lap and we will wait to see how things turn out tomorrow."
Keizo Takahashi, General Manager, Car Design and Development: "Looking at our performance from Thursday, I have to be satisfied with today's result. I think 10th place is better than we expected, and given the problems we have had with the lack of grip this weekend, we could not have done much more. Cristiano drove an excellent lap, particularly as it is his first time driving in Monaco this weekend, and it is fitting that he has achieved his best qualifying result of the year at this track. Olivier took a different strategy to the session today, with more focus on the race, and we now have to see what tomorrow brings."