A question of tires

Ralf Schumacher, Canadian GP 2003

Ralf Schumacher, Canadian GP 2003 

 © The Cahier Archive

Normally in June the sun is shining in Montreal and girls are using the sunny days to wed their beaux in a dreamy fashion. This year anyone planning such an event needed to have galoshes, Long Johns and a flask of brandy because Old Man Weather was a little in the grumpy side. The wind was up and the rain came down and anyone called Noah began looking for animals.

Not, of course, that Montreal is Sin City. There are a few dodgy night clubs lined up along the clean-living-sounding Rue Ste Catherine but otherwise Montreal is a fairly pleasant place to be unless of course you like listening to the French of Racine or Corneille for what is spoken in these parts is an approximate version of French which jars the ears and sounds, on occasion, like people vomiting golf balls.

These separatists and secessionists are a proud lot and have their own flags and their desire to start a new nation and they are very proud of the Grand Prix which is Canada's biggest annual tourist event and the event which kicks off the festival season in Montreal. It is a big splash - or at least it was this year.

Changing weather conditions wreak havoc in Formula 1 these days. For some mysterious reaons Michelin has never had a very good wet weather tyre and so when it rains the men from Japan suddenly look very happy and the Michelin men seem rather less inflated than usual. When the sun comes out the Michelin types are suddenly pumped up and the Japanese look decidedly glum. Because right now the tyres from Japan are not up to the job, even when they are fitted to a Ferrari with Michael Schumacher driving.

On Friday it was wet (and horrid) and as a result Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher were so much faster than everyone else that one could envisage a race in which the pair would have time to stop for tea and scones. On Saturday morning things seems scarcely better but as the day went on a dry line emerged and then it grew wider and by the time qualifying came along it was as wide as the race track. The clouds above were still as dull and threatening but the raindrops stayed in the heavens.

And that changed everything. Alll the zillions and squillions of dollars which are needed to develop these beautiful cars were of little value as the engineers began guessing what settings they would need. Compromise was in the air. The drivers prepaerd to do their damnedest with imperfect cars. It was all very exciting.

The jumbled list of Friday meant that we began to afternoon with Jacques Villeneuve, Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella. It was quite a time before we had a Minardi. So for a few brief minutes Villeneuve was on the pole and the flags of Quebec waved. One minute and sixteen seconds later Jarno Trulli ended the glory and he stayed top until Ralf Schumacher, who had not done well on Friday, came out and chopped 1.2 seconds from Trulli's time. Montoya was soon out as well but he could only get to within a few tenths of Ralfie and then we had some ususual moments as Panis was third and then Webber. Kimi Raikkonen looked like a man who should be challenging for pole, at least until he arrived at the first corner and spun off into the wall. The men on the McLaren-Mercedes pitwall sank a few inches in height. Starting from the back of the grid at Montreal meant that Raikkonen would not be having a nice day on Sunday. Then we had Alonso taking third and a couple of Bridgestone runners who were nowhere at all and soon we were left with only the two Ferraris. Michael Schumacher went first. At the frist corner the car stepped out a hint and Michael nearly lost it. And with that went his chance of pole. He would end the lap a full half second behind his brother and Montoya was between them.

Rubens Barrichello was the only hope left for Ferrari and he locked it up going down to Turn One, squared the rounded edges of his tyres and spent the rest of the lap trying to keep his eyeballs from falling out of his head.

And so we had a Williams-BMW 1-2. There was much rejoicing down in the pit and the men from Munich kept very quiet lest anyone remind them that the Williams is supposed to be a dog of a chassis. Yes, a greyhound perhaps. Montoya said that his lap had been slightly hindered by a decision to change the tyre choice just before the session began but both he and Ralf seemed very pleased.

"It is a fantastic day for us," said senior operations engineer Sam Michael. "It was a super job, both from the drivers and from the engineers, particularly as it was effectively the first time that we had done any real dry weather running. We are very confident for the race."

They made similar noises about the race down at Ferrari while no doubt Jean Todt got on the phone and tried to find some native Americans to do a rain dance on Sunday morning and Michael Schumacher won the 2003 Stating the Obvious Award with his remark that "at the moment it looks like Michelin has an advantage."

The only thing that made the Red Army look less miserable was when they considered the plight of McLaren for there was David Coulthard in 11th and Kimi Raikkonen behind Jordans and Minardis with nothing to look at in his mirrors except the Medical Car.

Ron Dennis made some remark about a need for "creative strategy" while other team members suggested that to get a result on Sunday would require an act of God or some rather good black magic. It was all just too horrible. To be 11th and 20th on a day when Michelin were doing well was not exactly maximising the potential of the window of opportunity. Overtaking in Canada is never easy and being behind the Minardis and Jordans opened up the possibility that Kimi might be held up or worse involved in an incident while trying to get through the field.

In the end Alonso ended up fourth in his Renault which was a good effort in a car which was not supposed to fly in Canada. The team said that testing on Friday morning, when the track had been dry, had really helped. Jarno Trulli should have been up there to but a crash in the warm-up (just before qualifying) was a silly thing to do and he went to Alonso's spare. Ninth on the grid was a good recovery but he might have fourth or fifth if he had not crashed.

We have grown used to seeing a Jaguar sixth and so Mark Webber's performance was no big surprise and with Antonio Pizzonia 13th and on a heavy fuel strategy things looked OK down Jaguar way.

Things looked OK at Toyota as well (just for a change) with Olivier Panis seventh and Cristiano de Matta ninth. This was rather miraculous given that both cars had been damaged in crashes on Saturday morning.

With seven of the top 10 cars on Michelins there was not much hope for the Bridgestone men other than Ferrari. The fastest of these was Heinz-Harald Frentzen and this too was a remarkable achievement as Heinz too had crashed and suffered an engine failure in the morning session (it was a busy time). To qualify 10th in the circumstances was very good. Heidfeld was 12th on the grid and hoping for rain.

The biggest disappointment (again) was the performance of the BAR-Hondas. The cars have been gradually and rather quietly improving and the Honda engine is now right up there with the best. Reliability has been an issue and the tyres have not helped but the drivers have also not been without blame. Both made mistakes on their qualifying runs and so Villeneuve was 14th and Button 17th. A disappointing result.

Minardi on the other hand was having a great weekend although the efforts of the team were somewhat overshadowed by all the politicking in the paddock. The cars looked good and despite not having the best Bridgestones Jos Verstappen was 15th and Justin Wilson was 18th. A great effort. For Minardi this is cause for dancing on the streets in Faenza.

Jordan had looked very good in the wet on Friday with Ralf Firman fourth fastest but on Saturday in the dry conditions both he and Giancarlo Fisichella got it wrong at the first corner and so ended up 16th and 19th on the grid. Eddie Jordan looked crestfallen.

What would the weather bring on Sunday?


1. Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), 1m15.529s
2. Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), 1m15.923s (+ 0.394s)
3. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1m16.047s (+ 0.518s)


Q: Ralf, would it be unkind to say that was a surprise today?

Ralf SCHUMACHER: It certainly was. We came here this weekend knowing that we could be competitive but after what happened yesterday and we had to go out very early today we expected to be in the top five but being on the first row is a great result for the team.

Q: It looked like a near perfect lap for you?

R.Schumacher: It was. I took it a bit easy into the first turn which I think might have paid off for me looking at what other people did there but the car was brilliant and it is thanks to the team.

Q: Juan Pablo, you were slightly slower than Ralf again in qualifying. At Monaco there was a slight set-up difference. Today?

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: No. Today I think the cars were pretty similar. I just made a mistake into turn three and that cost me most of the time and in the last corner I made up a little bit of time back on him but coming out of the last corner I was too close to the wall and I had to get out of the throttle, so P2 is pretty good. I told him earlier - you keep doing the pole I'll keep doing the wins.

Q: Michael, it looked like a difficult warm-up for you. You are P3. I guess it hasn't slipped your notice that Kimi Raikkonen is at the back of the grid again. Tell us about your qualifying session?

Michael SCHUMACHER: Honestly, if I consider the quality of my lap, being third I have to be happy because that wasn't one of my better ones. I am reasonably okay with the position I am in so let's see what happens tomorrow.

Q: Do you think that on a perfect lap the pole was there for you?

M.Schumacher: It would have been difficult. It would have been tight. Probably not. Honestly, the mistake wasn't that big. But we have to consider the championship situation and knowing where Kimi is at the moment and where we can be tomorrow that is obviously very promising.

Q: Ralf, it was dry and the prediction for tomorrow is for dry weather too, but it is quite cold now. Is that a problem for the tires?

R.Schumacher: Looking at today it doesn't seem to be. I am surprised. It definitely looked that the Michelin worked particularly well today so I have no fear for tomorrow.


Q: So Ralf, two good Saturdays running. It has got to be good news?

R.Schumacher: Let's wait how the Sunday is going to come out. Certainly pole position is always great, especially for the team, but the Sunday is where it counts.

Q: The two of you obviously had very good straight-line speed. How important was that?

R.Schumacher: It is always pretty important. Looking at the long straights we have here it is quite simple to answer that but you sacrifice other areas for that. But I think looking at today's result we have found a good way.

Q: You had to make sacrifices for elsewhere on the lap did you, then?

R.Schumacher: No, we got the car brilliantly balanced and that is why we were able to do that.

Q: Did you change much after the warm-up?

R.Schumacher: No, nothing actually. I mean, there was not a lot of running. The most running we did was in the wet. We went all over the place with the set-ups just to try to fine-tune it and we knew pretty much what to do for the dry conditions.

Q: Yeah, because you actually had very little dry running?

R.Schumacher: Yeah, but we know our car by now.

Q: So you would be pretty happy with the set-up?

R.Schumacher: Yeah. All weekend it was pretty close. Friday, when Juan went out he was straight away fastest so the car was good from the beginning on.

Q: After the win at Monaco is there a change to the feeling within the team?

R.Schumacher: Well, certainly we have had a very difficult time after my last victory in Malaysia, very far back, so it has given the team a big push, which was necessary. But you have to say since the last race it was always there. I mean, Juan was in a promising position in Austria but just had bad luck so the car was improving, we just couldn't show its true potential.

Q: So the important thing tomorrow is to hang onto that lead, huh.

R.Schumacher: That would be quite good, yeah. That's the idea.

Q: Juan Pablo, similar situation with the car. Were you pretty much on it?

Montoya: No, yeah, we decided with my car to change tires right before qualifying and I think that played a little bit and I made a couple of mistakes but the car is pretty good. I made the mistakes and I lost the time and that was about it.

Q: Again, very quick on the straight as well.

Montoya: Yeah, it is good power.

Q: Are you running pretty much similar set-ups?

Montoya: Yeah, I think so. They are not identical but they are pretty close. I am not going to tell you much more.

Q: You were asked after your win in Monaco if this was the start of a Williams return. I think you can pretty much confirm that now, can't you?

Montoya: Well, it is difficult to say. It is only qualifying. We have got a long day tomorrow. It really shows the car has a lot of potential. We said at the beginning of the year the car had the potential to win and we are really getting the best out of it at the moment.

Q: And the feelings within the team. Would you say it is?

Montoya: It's good and after today it is even better. It is brilliant.

Q: How much do you think the track had changed between Ralf running and you going out? Was there more grip than during the warm-up?

M.Schumacher: Maybe a little bit, yup. It should, be naturally, after all the rain has fallen, it should have improved but by how much - who knows?

R.Schumacher: It looks like there wasn't so much more, was there?

M.Schumacher: It's difficult to assess, honestly. I think the warm-up cleaned up most of it and whether there was? maybe a little bit.

Q: After Kimi went off, did you change the tactics for the race? You gave the impression that you might have done.

M.Schumacher: It looked like it in the first corner - I almost did the same thing as he did. So no, I just concentrated on my job and wanted to do my best and tried to use the opportunity, honestly.

Q: You hadn't changed the fuel strategy at that stage?

M.Schumacher: As you know, we cannot because after two o' clock we cannot change anything.

Q: What about the tire war swing. Do you think it's gone slightly towards Michelin here?

M.Schumacher: It looks to be, yeah. The question is: how much fuel is on board? That's something we will find out tomorrow.

Q: Obviously the Bridgestones have been very, very good in wet weather. Do you still feel they are competitive with Michelin in the dry as well?

M.Schumacher: I feel we were far more competitive in the wet condition, which was very obvious yesterday and today, this morning, as well. But in the dry, things are very close. Who has the advantage? It's difficult to say. In qualifying it looks a little bit towards Michelin, depending on the fuel load obviously and in the race, consistency and so on, we will find out.


Q: Ralf, you seem to be handling the single lap qualifying a lot better now than in earlier events. Have you changed any way in which you're preparing yourself for qualifying?

R.Schumacher: No, not really. The problems I had were with the first two or three races really. It started to get a little bit better in Brazil. Usually, if you go back to last year's records, I seem to be always pretty competitive on my first of my four runs, so it was not really natural to me. I don't know why really. We seem to have found it difficult to get the car perfect for what I wanted and it's why I never got it together, and that situation has improved since the last two races.

Q: Michael, because we don't know the fuel loads exactly and whatever strategy you will be using tomorrow, how relevant are qualifying times really? Should they have an asterisk next to them under the current new rules system?

M.Schumacher: Let me put it this way. They probably, in terms of history, won't have maybe the quality or the meaning of what they used to have because now, whoever wants to drive with very little fuel can maybe jump to pole position and then have to come for a pit stop very early in the race. So there is this factor and to history it's different. But okay, that's the way the rules are.

Q: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

M.Schumacher: Well, I don't like it personally.

Q: Michael, what is your feeling going into the race knowing that Kimi is starting at the back of the grid and he's the guy you're trying to catch for the championship?

M.Schumacher: Well, you have to look at the championship and that's what I'm doing. And obviously, we had some misfortune earlier in the season and with these rules it works sometimes in favour and sometimes against you. We'll have to find out how much that will help us.

Q: I know there are no team orders as such and with you two up the front, and knowing how angry Patrick Head can get, are you likely to be having a little private conversation about the first corner?

R.Schumacher: No. First of all, Patrick might look angry sometimes but it's just his way to express himself. It's not meant bad. Second, we'll try and find our way round without hurting each other tomorrow. I'm sure about that.

Q: A question for Ralf. Can you describe your routine going into tomorrow's race, your evening, if you have any special routine?

R.Schumacher: I don't know if this is the right occasion here! No, I don't have any special things to do - a bit of marketing, nice dinner, go to bed early and wait until the next day. These days, with the rule changes, it is pretty?not boring?but for the drivers you can't change anything on the car besides tire pressures and front wing, so our main job working with the engineers on the car has been cut down by the FIA.

Q: So no mental difference knowing it's Saturday, with more pressure? A lighter dinner maybe?

R.Schumacher: No, no. I'm too long in Formula One to have anything like this?

Q: Juan Pablo, last week you spent some time with Jeff Gordon down at Indianapolis. Getting to know him as you did, and this is a purely hypothetical question, but do you think that if he did say two months testing, and he was in a competitive car like the Williams, where do you think he would have qualified today?

Montoya: It's difficult to say. It really depends on the track but I think he did a good job. I'm not going to say he's very quick or very slow. I think what everybody saw, all the team was very impressed with his performance and the team took it quite seriously when he got in the car and he did a good job for it.

Q: I wanted to ask Ralf how he feels about having his brother right behind him on the grid? Does that make you nervous at all, or are you used to it by now?

R.Schumacher: It's the best place for him to be, behind me. (Laughter). It doesn't make me nervous, no. It makes me feel good, actually, if I'm on pole that's the target of all of us. His target is to keep me behind him, so it's the same.

Q: Michael, Formula One is obviously very popular here in Canada, but it hasn't really caught on in the US. Do you think it ever will catch on there and is it even important to you, your team and your sponsors?

M.Schumacher: Well, I think if you see the history how long Formula One races in Canada and how long it does in the US, I guess that's the answer. Plus you have a Canadian driver, we don't have an American driver, so that doesn't help. But if you look at the rate of interest and the increase of interest even in the States, I think Formula One develops to the standard it has elsewhere.

Q: Is it important for your sponsors?

M.Schumacher: I guess so. The more attention we create, the more viewers we have, the more happy our sponsors are and the more they like to invest.


Michael Schumacher (3rd, 1:16.047): "Considering the quality of my lap, I have to be happy with third place. It was not one of my better ones. Even if I had put together a perfect lap, I think it would have been difficult to get pole. We were very competitive in the wet, but in the dry it seems much closer, but of course the fuel loads will have clouded the picture a bit. I saw that Raikkonen was off the track, but I just concentrated on doing my job. I cannot ignore the fact that having him starting from the back of the grid is important in terms of the championship fight. We had some misfortune early on in the season and we can see that with the new rules, sometimes they work for you and sometimes against you. Consistency in terms of tire performance will be important for tomorrow's race."

Rubens Barrichello (5th, 1:16.143): "In this morning's free practice, I had a trouble free run in the wet. Then, in the warm-up, I had a few problems with the brakes. At the start of my qualifying flying lap, I flat-spotted the tires and that affected the rest of my lap. Nevertheless, I believe I can have a good race. On this track, it is possible to overtake and make up some places. We will have to wait and see."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "Once again this season, we have witnessed a very closely contested qualifying session. The warm-up and qualifying provided our only real opportunity to run on a dry track. When it comes to evaluating what we saw on the track, we have to take into consideration the different fuel levels chosen for the start of the race. Although Michael's third place and Rubens' fifth is not the ideal situation, I am confident about our chances of having a good race. In terms of the championship, which reaches the halfway point here in Montreal, we know how important it is to pick up as many points as possible with both cars."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "It is a bit premature to say the Bridgestone tires did not work as well in the dry as they did in the wet. In qualifying the track was obviously still green and so we will have to wait until tomorrow in race conditions to see what is the real situation. We have a good strategy and I am confident. Of course, we will have to keep an eye on the cars in front of us. Naturally, I am a little bit disappointed with the way qualifying went and I hope things will go better in the race, when I am sure we will be more competitive."


Ralf Schumacher (1st, 1:15.529): "I had a really good lap. My car was well balanced and everything worked out well. Also the weather conditions seem to suit our Michelin tires pretty well - it is not too cold and just a bit damp. Furthermore I believe we are on a good race strategy, but just two weeks ago I experienced what can happen and change over a race distance. Of course it is my target to win here having missed out in Monaco, especially as I really like this circuit and Montreal a lot. I am sure we are facing an exciting race."

Juan Pablo Montoya (2nd, 1:15.923): "I am quite surprised we are on the first row today, we knew we could be competitive but we didn't expect to be so far up. I made a little mistake in the first sector at turn three and I lost a bit of time there and also maybe the tires that we decided to go for with my car at the last minute were not the ideal, but all in all I believe we are in a pretty good shape. It is clear that under dry conditions our tires are a lot more competitive than in the wet. We should have a good race tomorrow as we have a very good package and a lot of power."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "It is a fantastic day for us having both cars on the front row. The drivers and the engineers did a brilliant job getting the cars to where they were under these difficult conditions as the final qualifying actually was the first completely dry session. We are very confident for tomorrow's race regarding the strategy and the tires."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "It was almost one year ago, at the Nurburgring, since we were on the first row with both the cars. After the pole and the victory in Monaco today's performance proves we definitely are on an improving curve. The key factor for our success was that the track became completely dry at noon. Both the drivers had good laps, Ralfs an excellent one. We didn't think we could achieve such good starting positions after our poor perfomance on Friday. Huge compliments to all the team!"


David Coulthard (11th, 1:17.024): "I'm not happy with my qualifying position. I suffered from oversteer coming into the last chicane and lost about half a second. I think that without that I would definitely be further up the grid. However there is nothing I can do about it now and I will focus on tomorrow's race."

Kimi Raikkonen (20th, No Time): "Of course I'm disappointed with today's qualifying. I ran wide at the first corner as I had a bit more understeer than in warm up which I wasn't prepared for. The exit of the corner was very slippery and I hit the kerb and went off the track. I'm not sure yet how much damage was done to the car, but I don't expect it to be too much. I don't know what will happen in the race tomorrow but I know that anything is possible and that we will all do our best."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "The outcome of today's qualifying will require creative strategy by the team if we are to leave Canada with significant points finishes. However we have faced similar challenges before and the team and the drivers have proved their ability to respond."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A disappointing outcome of qualifying and certainly the worst basis for Kimi's race tomorrow. However all the team will do everything to make the best of the situation and fight for good results in the race."


Fernando Alonso (4th, 1:16.048): "I am very happy, not just with qualifying but with our work throughout the day. We had a good morning, trying lots of different set-ups, and we were always competitive in the wet. In qualifying, it was definitely a small advantage to be running towards the end of the session. The car was good and I didn't make any mistakes: to be fourth on the grid is a good starting point for tomorrow."

Jarno Trulli (8th, 1:16.718): "First of all, I need to say a big thank you to my mechanics, who did a brilliant job today. I had to use the spare car, which was originally set up for Fernando, and the timed lap was my first in that car this weekend. Taking that into account, I think I can be pleased to be starting eighth tomorrow."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Weather conditions this weekend have a played a large part in the event so far. Our Friday testing has paid off once again, and we find ourselves in a competitive position. Jarno's accident at the end of the warm-up forced him to use the T-car, but this did not compromise his position as he felt the car was good. Fernando's position is particularly encouraging and we hope that he will be able to make use of our launch control to further improve on this at the start of the race."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "In light of the circumstances we have encountered today, I think we can say this is an excellent result. We had a good day, with the exception of a single incident which didn't stop us from getting a favourable result. On the technical side, the weekend has been problem-free so far, even if the wet conditions are less demanding mechanically than in the dry. If the weather holds, I think we can challenge strongly tomorrow."


Heinz-Harald Frentzen (10th, 1:16.939): "I am happy with my result considering the hectic circumstances during the warm-up. In the morning the team was quite busy due to my crash and then the engine failure we suffered, but luckily they were able to fix the car just in time. Thanks to my team for their good job!"

Nick Heidfeld (12th, 1:17.086): "Of course, my qualifying lap wasn't as good as the one yesterday, but in the changed circumstances we didn't expect it to be. Nevertheless we have finished quite well compared to other Bridgestone runners and I didn't make any real mistakes."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "The 10th and 12th positions give us a good basis for the race tomorrow. Both drivers have shown once again that they can stand the immense mental pressure of the single qualifying lap. Looking at our strategy, they gave a solid performance."


Giancarlo Fisichella (16th, 1:18.036): "Obviously it's been a very frustrating qualifying session. I went into turn one and locked up the front tires in a big way and lost the line. Then it happened again just under the bridge and I went into the grass, losing quite a lot of time. I am very disappointed because maybe with a good lap I had the possibility to be in the top 10. Anyway the race is a long one, so we'll see."

Ralph Firman (19th, 1:18.692): "That was disappointing. I had a good day yesterday but clearly today was not so good. I locked up the wheels at the first corner and then had a flat spot on the tire all the way round the circuit. We'll have to try our best in the race and wait and see what happens."

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "Both drivers made mistakes at the first corner and when you do that you lose everything because you're under pressure trying to play catch-up for the rest of the lap. When you flat spot the front tires the brakes don't work right afterwards so it's not good to do it at the beginning of the lap. I don't really know what to say other than it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. We'll see what happens tomorrow with fuel strategies and just do the best we can."


Mark Webber (6th, 1:16.182): "I'm delighted to have secured P6 and I don't think there is anything more I could have done out there. That was about as perfect a lap as I could have hoped for and very pleasing given how difficult it is to get all the braking points right around this circuit. The dry track conditions have obviously helped us today and combined with the Michelin rubber, the car worked very well indeed. We changed quite a few things on the car from this morning to suit the dry conditions and combined with the thorough data we gathered yesterday from the two-hour test, the team's preparation has been nothing short of impressive. This is a very challenging circuit and renowned as a 'car breaker' - particularly on the brakes - and our goal is simply to cross the finishing line. The team has come an awful long way in a very short space of time and our immediate challenge is to realise the full potential of this race package through reliability. We are very well placed to make a points challenge tomorrow but this will be dictated mainly through reliability. The guys haven't stopped working since our unfortunate and premature Monaco exit and let's hope we can repay their hard work with some points tomorrow."

Antonio Pizzonia (13th, 1:17.337): "I am pleased with my lap time, albeit I lost a couple of tenths through understeer at the first corner. As one of the first guys out, you don't take full advantage of rubber being laid onto the track but that's the way it goes. Given the strategy I am on for tomorrow's race, my overall performance today is pleasing and I am looking forward to racing around this circuit tomorrow. It is fast, with tricky braking points and very little room for mistakes. Having never raced here before, I have to say that I enjoy the track and assuming we have reliability on our side tomorrow, we are well prepared and well placed to put on a competitive show. The weather, however, remains unpredictable and in the end, that will be the deciding factor for the race outcome tomorrow."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "It has been quite a difficult weekend up until now with Friday being the only opportunity to have done some dry testing in preparation for today and the race. We took full advantage of our two hours testing yesterday to prepare for what we thought would be a dry qualifying and hopefully a dry race. Outside of this, the rest of Friday and this morning were difficult because of how wet it was. Nonetheless, we achieved a lot yesterday on balance, wing settings and tire comparisons and this work paid dividends today. Both drivers did an excellent job and the team's preparation deserves strong credit too. To be starting the race tomorrow alongside a Ferrari is very pleasing but our aim is to be reliable - something we have not demonstrated to the degree required. Reliability is not something you achieve overnight and we are working tirelessly to accelerate the process. After the retirement of both cars in Monaco, we changed several internal procedures in an effort to ensure reliability this weekend but it's a long-term and on-going process. Yet again we have proved the pace of the Jaguar R4 and it's now time to see whether our reliability goals will see us through to the end of the race and subsequently some championship points."


Jacques Villeneuve (14th, 1:17.347): "It wasn't a bad lap; there was a couple of tenths still to be had but at least there were no mistakes. Like most of the teams we only got a few laps in the dry so the set-up isn't optimized. I think we'll be stronger in the race - not as strong as we would be in a wet race but we can certainly improve on qualifying. This is always an exciting race so I'm looking forward to it."

Jenson Button (17th, 1:18.205): "We had a very good free practice this morning with Jacques and I swapping places in the top three at one point. As the track has continued to dry though we've struggled to keep up with the Michelin runners. My qualifying lap was poor from the beginning. I had very low grip throughout and the car wasn't handling at all well, then the rears locked up in the last corner. Even without that problem it wouldn't have been a very impressive lap. It's very disappointing to be starting the race from 17th. It looks like it's going to be dry as well so from this position we have a lot of hard work to do to make the best of things tomorrow once we are able to get more heat into the tires."

David Richards, Team Principal:

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Both engines ran well today and our grid positions don't really reflect where we are this weekend. Going out later in the running order would have benefited us as the track conditions improved throughout the session. It was unfortunate that Jenson made a mistake towards the end of his run as he was quick through the first sector. We're all hoping for better results tomorrow."


Jos Verstappen (15th, 1:18.014): "It was a fantastic lap, like the one in Monaco two weeks ago. We had some difficulties with the car in the wet this morning, and I certainly preferred that we had dry conditions for qualifying this afternoon. I'd like to thank the mechanics, as they did a great job with all the changes we made to the car today. The qualifying lap was a good one, with no mistakes, and I'm very pleased with the time."

Justin Wilson (18th, 1:18.560): "It was a pretty clean lap. I had a bit of moment halfway round when the car hit a damp patch, but I was generally happy with my qualifying run this afternoon. The two hours of testing on Friday, which took place in dry conditions, may have helped us today, as I certainly know the circuit better than I otherwise would have. It gives you the confidence to push just that little bit harder."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "What a fantastic performance from our drivers - they both drove mega-laps in qualifying this afternoon. It's a shame about Kimi, but these things happen. It's just racing."


Olivier Panis (7th, 1:16.598): "I am pleased with the results of qualifying today - for myself, Cristiano and the whole team. We had some problems in practice this morning. I made a spin in the first session, which caused some damage to the car, but everybody in the team reacted very well to get the car in a good shape for qualifying. I would like to extend my thanks to all the mechanics for their professional and quick work today. We appear to be reasonably competitive here and starting from 7th and 9th, we are in a good position for the race."

Cristiano Da Matta (9th, 1:16.826): "Unfortunately we did not complete much running in the drying track conditions this morning. The only dry running we have done this weekend were the few laps I completed in the warm-up. As a result, there is still some work to be done on improving my driving finesse around this track. All things considered, the qualifying lap was quite a good effort and I have gone one better than my previous best qualifying result in Monaco, and I look forward to seeing what we can do from 9th in tomorrow's race."

Keizo Takahashi, General Manager, Car Design and Development: "We had some trouble in free practice this morning after both Olivier and Cristiano had off-track excursions, which caused damage to both TF103s. Consequently Cristiano was forced to use the spare car and the mechanics had to work a lot on the cars in the short space of time before qualifying. Both drivers and team did an exceptional job in the qualifying hour, especially given the lack of time we have had to fine-tune the cars in the dry. I would also like to say that Michelin have once again provided us with very good tires this weekend, for which we are thankful. All in all I am overjoyed with our best ever joint qualifying result of the season so far."

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