JUNE 28, 2003
EUROPEAN GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT
Raikkonen takes first pole
Formula 1 qualifying seems to have become more and more confusing with each passing race, and yet at the same time the sessions seem to be more and more exciting as well. One is never sure exactly what is going on and who is running what weight of fuel in their tanks. There are related issues of tyre performance and durability depending on different fuel loads and very quickly it all becomes so complicated that it is a question of which compromise is the right one and the only way to know that is to let the number-crunchers do their calculations. It is a science and an art because simple (or rather complicated) mathematics cannot give you all the answers because they cannot take into account the problem of drivers being unable to overtake other cars. Technology is both a blessing and a curse. It offers fascinating possibilities in terms of developments but also closes down opportunity for on a track like the Nurburgring overtaking in the race is virtually impossible unless human error of one kind or another intervenes. Overtaking is done during the pit stops. It is all about strategy and the best strategy is the one that wins rather than the one that was theoretically the best.
There are so many variables and plenty of misinformation as well and in the end one reaches the conclusion that the best thing to do is to wait until Sunday to work it all out. For the teams the only thing to do is to pick a strategy and stick to it in the hope that circumstances will help it work.
"The racing," said David Coulthard on Saturday morning, "is the easy bit."
Coulthard is a top Formula 1 driver and yet this year, with the new system of qualifying he has been made to look less impressive because of the one-lap qualifying format.
"One lap defines whether you are quick or slow," he added. "And I don't like it."
That is Coulthard the perfectionist talking but F1 is not about perfection these days. It is not about chipping away at a task until it is nearly perfect. It is about doing it as right as possible or perhaps as "less wrong" as possible. And the skill (as in art) is not knowing what to do but rather in knowing when to stop; understanding where the limit must be. There is no room for caution.
The fates of the two McLaren drivers on Saturday at the Nurburgring highlighted this brilliantly. Kimi Raikkonen was on pole position. David Coulthard was ninth on the grid. Both men are good racers and there is little between them in a scrap on the race track but when it comes to qualifying Finland's Ice Man has the knack, the talent, call it what you will, to do the job. To walk the high wire. Sometimes, as in Canada, he falls off.
"Kimi did a fantastic lap," said McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh. "He was under a lot of pressure and he did the job. Michelin did a great job. The tyres are good over one lap and they will hold up well in the race as well and we have a good race strategy."
Coulthard's performance however did not receive the same kind of praise.
"David, frankly, is going to be reflecting on his confidence level," continued Whitmarsh. "He did a conservative lap yesterday and maybe that was the thing to do, but you cannot be conservative and get to the front. It is too competitive for that."
The problem for David is that as qualifying dictates what one can do in the race and that means he is not doing well this year. He needs to improve but at the same time he does not want to throw his car into a sandtrap trying to qualify better. And that is beginning to hurt him.
One can say that David is not a great racing driver if you chose to interpret the facts in this way but in truth caution has always been a vital piece in the jigsaw puzzle. Juan Manuel Fangio was great because he survived.
"Look at Peter Collins," said one F1 veteran, referring back to the British racer killed at the Nurburgring in the late 1950s. "One mistake in those days and you were dead."
The truth is that different systems suit different drivers and the current system does not suit DC.
But it seems to suit most of the other top drivers. Even Ralf Schumacher seems to have come to grips with how to qualify without messing up.
The session on Saturday was a gripping one. Friday had been a mess with rain coming at the halfway point which meant that the running order was not exactly as it might have been. those who ran early in the Saturday session were at a disadvantage. Early in the session Olivier Panis, who had been fast all weekend (except in the important Friday qualifying session). Panis set the mark at 1m32.350s and 10 drivers came and went before the Toyota was finally knocked from the top of the time sheets. But after that it was all go. Jarno Trulli was the first man to beat Panis's time and after Coulthard's conservative run, Rubens Barrichello and then Ralf Schumacher each went out and beat the best time. Juan Pablo Montoya came very close to beating his BMW Williams colleague and rival but he was not close enough. Then it was down to Michael Schumacher. It was one of those moments when as Michael wound up the Ferrari it would have been right to have Wagner's Ride of the Valkyrie playing in the background to add a little to the atmosphere. Michael and Ferrari had been struggling with tyres (not that it would ever be admitted) and you just knew that if this was going to be a Schumacher pole position lap it was going to be one achieved on pure talent alone. It was (inevitably) a marvellous lap and as the lap time popped up at the end of the lap Michael had eclipsed Ralf by a tenth of a second.
And so it was all down to Kimi to do the job. In the first sector the Finn was quicker than Michael but he dropped back in the second and so everyone waited for the time to flash up as he went across the finish line to see if he would on the pole. The result was three-hundreths of a second better than the Ferrari and down in the McLaren pit they celebrated "maximising the potential of the performance envelope".
It was an impressive performance under great pressure although later Kimi explained how he managed to remain so cool.
"I have been told that qualifying was very exciting," Kimi said. "I didn't have any idea of what times the others did as I was just sitting in the car waiting to go out and not looking at the screens. We knew that if we got everything right we could do it - and we did."
It was not so much a question of delivering under pressure but rather of being cool and calm from ignorance of the facts. Still, if it works...
When it had all ended and it was time for analysis, it emerged that one could surmise almost anything one wanted to surmise. The Michelin runners looked good in the dry and the Bridgestones seemed better in the wet. But was that true over a race distance and well as in qualifying. The tyre war is such these days that one can never be sure what is happening because the tyres can qualify well and then take a long time to clean up and become consistent or they can be quick starting tyres which do not last long. No-one is willing to explain what is going on because they do not wish to give away secrets.
So it is a bit like watching someone throwing lottery tickets into a top hat and wondering which one is going to come out first. Or whether a rabbit is going to suddenly pop up and give us all a big surprise.
The fact is that the level of fuel is such an important issue that when you don't know the numbers you cannot predict very much. Some cars were running light.
"You cannot do much about that," said a frustrated Coulthard. "I don't really understand why they bother because they are not going to be there at the end of the race!"
But before fading back in the race the Renault and the Toyotas were likely to have an effect on DC's ability to win the race. In effect he was out of the picture. The race at the front would be a five-cornered fight between the two Ferraris, the two Williams-BMWs and Raikkonen.
Behind that lot, there would Coulthard and Webber on hard tyres and heavy fuel fighting wih the Renaults and Toyotas who looked like they were on light fuel loads. But you can never tell. in Montreal Renault's performance in the race was such a surprise that the speed achieved in qualifying seemed impossible.
Webber said he was happy to be 11th and added that he would not have the 11th fastest car in the race. It was just a question of strategy.
"I think I have made the right decision about strategy," said Michael Schumacher, "but we won't find out until the race. I think our lap times will be good tomorrow. We have shown that we are competitive here. Yesterday the Michelin runners benefited from a softer compound that they could not use today. Today gave us the true picture."
"I am happy that we are so close to the Ferraris and McLarens and I think we have a very good strategy for the race," said Ralf Schumacher.
"I am confident for the race," said Juan Pablo Montoya.
It was the same all the way down the grid until one reached drivers who try as they might could not sound convincing and it was obvious that there was no chance in hell of a good result. And anyway it would all depend on the weather because of the differences in the tyres. If it was wet the Bridgestones would be dominant. That much was clear. But what about the dry? All one can say of the Nurburgring is that once the first couple of laps are out of the way there would not be much overtaking and so it would be down to who can go longest, conserve their car the best and then produce the really fast laps when there is clear track ahead of them.
And in that situation you would never bet against Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. Schumacher himself was a little worried by the fact that he would have to start the race from second on the grid, on the dirty side of the race track. If that were to cost him a few tenths of a second at the start on Sunday he might find himself stuck behind the two Williams-BMWs and that would allow Kimi Raikkonen to disappear off into the distance.But then again he might not be able to keep up with the Williams-BMWs.
The sands of Formula 1 are constantly shifting...
One had to say after qualifying it looked as though Michelin would be very strong in the race. The Ferraris excepted all the Bridgestone runners were down the back, the best being Jenson Button in 12th place. In fact the only Michelin runner behind any of the Bridgestone men (except the two Ferraris) was Antonio Pizzonia in the second Jaguar and he had taken a big risk on settings after the Saturday morning sessions and had created a monster. He was 16th.
All the Bridgestone runners were very polite about the tyres, mumbling about lack of grip but not saying it was happening. The nearest thing to criticism was in what was not said, rather than what was said.
Sauber had a good excuse for its performance because the string of Ferrari engine failures which have blighted the team's performance in recent weeks continued in the Saturday warm-up when both cars had engine trouble. The Sauber men did an impressive job getting Frentzen into the spare and changing the engine in Heidfeld's car in just 24 minutes. Most of us cannot find the right spanner in that amount of time...
It was all pointless in the end because a hydraulic malfunction in the system led to a slightly sticking throttle and Heidfeld sailed off the road and spun at the first corner of his flying lap. He would start the race at the back. Frentzen scrambled his "wunderwagen" to 15th, just behind the two Jordans.
The team had had a few dramas (outside the courtroom) but the fact that the two cars lined up with basically the same time was an indication of what the car could do.
"We are just not competitive enough," said Fisichella.
It was a similar story at BAR where things are just not going right at the moment. Jenson Button was the fastest Bridgestone user except for the Ferraris and he reckoned that 12th was not bad. Jacques Villeneuve's season from Hell continued with Jacques going out just as the rains came on Friday. He spun off and so was the first to run on Saturday. The track was dirty and so the grip level was largely guesswork and that meant that Jacques went wide at the first corner. His reward was 17th on the grid.
Behind him (way, way, way back) were the Minardis, 1.7 seconds off the pace. The funny thing is that when these cars are put on wet or extreme wet tyres they are suddenly up with the others but whenever they are running on dry weather tyres they are suddenly off the pace.
"We are astounded at seeing how good our performance is when we are on the same tyres as everyone else," said team boss Paul Stoddart on Friday. "When we have wets and extreme wets we are on exactly the same Bridgestones as the other teams and the times show the difference."
One thinks back to the winter when Minardi and Bridgestone were fighting... Surely there is a bright spark in Japan who will one day realise that giving Minardi better tyres will produce better publicity for the Japanese tyre company. But of course if you are not a Ferrari the people at Bridgestone do not appear to notice...
Nor to care.
POST QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE - JUNE 28, 2003
1. Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), 1m31.523s
2. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1m31.555s (+ 0.032s)
3. Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), 1m31.619s (+ 0.096s)
(Raikkonen is not audible due to technical problems)
Q: Michael, it's very close isn't it?
Michael SCHUMACHER: Yup. Between three of us actually, not just between Kimi and myself so it's going to be interesting tomorrow.
Q: Interesting from a tire point of view too.
M.Schumacher: Could be.
Q: There are three different manufacturers here too - tell us where you're looking at from Ferrari's point of view now?
M.Schumacher: I hope that in terms of strategy we made the right decision and we can use that to our advantage. We will find out tomorrow. I'm not sure if I should happy about second position and not prefer third position because usually it's a little bit more dusty on the inside of the circuit, but we will find out tomorrow.
Q: Ralf, it looked like a good clean lap from you too.
Ralf SCHUMACHER: The first and second sectors were alright. The last half of the chicane and through the last turn I missed a bit but that's always? if you asked the three of us, all of us will complain about one or two corners, which is the same. After yesterday, being so close to McLaren today and just missing the pole by a bit, I think we can be fairly happy about that.
Q: Kimi, I don't know if you're aware of it or not, but this is where your compatriot Mika Hakkinen scored his first pole in 1997. Can you just describe your emotions at taking the pole today?
Raikkonen: For sure it's a nice feeling and it's nice to hear that some other Finnish bloke has also got the first time here, but it's a big thanks to the team and the Mercedes people who are pushing really hard. It's one of the home races for the team and, of course, it's nice to get my first pole because one of these two guys is always taking it by a little margin and when you get it it's better than nothing.
Q: Kimi, well done. What do you think about pole then?
Raikkonen: Well, it's better to start from pole that second or third place but especially after the last race. It's a slightly better result!
Q: Did you feel a lot of pressure going last?
Raikkonen: Actually I didn't look at the screen at all. I didn't have any idea what the other guys did. I just went out and tried to do my best. We improved the car a lot from the morning and it was pretty much perfect.
Q: Were you a bit surprised to be on pole?
Raikkonen: I think so. I knew that if we could get everything completely right we could be on the top and it was close but it's good to happen.
Q: And the lap was pretty good?
Raikkonen: Yeah. I wouldn't change much. Of course, you can always maybe get a little bit better but you only have one time to try it and I think it's good enough to be on the pole.
Q: Michael, you seemed to pick up time during the lap - you were slower than Rubens at the first intermediate point?
M.Schumacher: About three thousandths?
Q: Very little, I agree, but did it seem to you that the grip was improving throughout the lap?
M.Schumacher: No, I wouldn't say so. I mean, all weekend basically, the first and last sector we have been very close and the mid sector has been sort of my sector and that was the same again now.
Q: So generally speaking were you happy with the lap?
Q: How much are you worried about Bridgestone's performance here because they seem to have been a little bit out-classed by Michelin?
M.Schumacher: Well, we are second so we are very close to the guys and I think our tire will be quite good tomorrow.
Q: And have you been surprised how competitive you have been? It has obviously been good.
M.Schumacher: No, I have not been surprised. To my knowledge the Michelin guys yesterday used the soft tires but they are not on the soft ones anymore and that paid out a lot for qualifying yesterday and still we were in a reasonable position. Where we are now today, I actually feel quite okay with this,
Q: But not terribly happy with second - you prefer to be on the other side of the track.
M.Schumacher: Yeah, I mean, you know that second usually is a dirtier line and you may lose out because of this - we have to find out. It doesn't always make a difference but sometimes it can. I hope that it doesn't do here but tomorrow we will see.
Q: Ralf, you and Juan Pablo were fastest in the first sector. Did you feel that you lost the time after that or not?
R.Schumacher: Yeah, I certainly lost time into some corners but it always happens in a single lap qualifying - you never get it together. I think for us in general it is a great result. The last three races have been very good for us but we were expecting more difficulties here because this is a totally different circuit and it was very difficult for us here in previous years. But seeing that history it is really great and a good confirmation that the FW25 is going into the right direction, so that is very satisfying for myself and definitely for the team.
Q: So you are perfectly happy with third?
R.Schumacher: Well, given the circumstances and how close we are together then yes, I think we can be quite satisfied with what we achieved today. The race is tomorrow, I disagree with Michael in that I think we have the upper hand in tires and I hope that we can show that tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Kimi, when was the last time you started a race first?
Raikkonen: It was 2000, I think, in Formula Renault in England . Slightly different!
Q: And do you remember where?
Raikkonen: Erm, I think I was pretty much every race on pole.
Q: Has there been any ruling on the chicane because some guys are cutting across a bit and going over the bollards and some aren't. Has Charlie (Whiting) talked to you about that?
R.Schumacher: The rule is if you keep your front wing on the car it is fine! (Laughter)
Q: Were you all fairly unhappy about the bollards there? Did you all want them removed?
M.Schumacher: Well, I think there's a little bit of a mixed opinion but at the end of the day if you just remove them everybody would just go straight over and that is not the point of the chicane. But in all fairness the solution would be a different kerb, a higher one, because it is a bit low but that is something you can't do over the weekend so we have to stick to the bollards. I think the double solution that Charlie did actually worked out well.
Q: Michael, today we saw McLaren and Raikkonen first and cheering but I would like to know from you - you are almost used to being in pole position - what is left in personal satisfaction for a driver to be on pole with the new rules?
M.Schumacher: It is different, certainly, and it depends very much on how much fuel you think you have on board compared to the others. If you think you have a lot of fuel on board and you still get your pole position there is a lot of satisfaction. If you run very light and you get the pole it is a very poor satisfaction so that is where it comes to but sometimes you only find out on Sunday. But yeah, it's different to the past.
Michael Schumacher (2nd, 1:31.555): "It was very close between the top few drivers, so I think it should be an interesting race tomorrow. I made a slight mistake, when I locked up a front wheel, which could have robbed me of pole. In terms of strategy I feel we have made the right decision, but we won't find out until the race. I think our lap times will be good tomorrow. In some ways, I would have been happier with third place, because being second on the inside line the track is a bit dirtier there and I could lose out a little bit."
Rubens Barrichello (5th, 1:31.780): "We made a major step forward with the car compared with yesterday and my time is very close to the pole time. It's a shame I am not further up the grid, but I am still confident about tomorrow's race, especially as last year I did not start from pole but in the end I still managed to win the Grand Prix. I can therefore be optimistic given that we know we can count on an excellent car-engine-Bridgestone tire package."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "We witnessed a great battle for pole position, with five drivers all within less than three tenths of a second. It is a testimony of the current high level of competition between the top teams, even though there is the question mark over the different fuel levels in the cars. Nevertheless, right from the start of the weekend we have seen there is little to chose between the main protagonists in the championship. Having one car on the front row and the other on the third is a good result overall. Tomorrow's race should be very closely contested and reliability and strategy will be the key points. Bridgestone has done a very good job on the tire front which means we can be competitive, given the importance of the tires in Formula 1."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "It was a very spectacular session which puts us in a good position for tomorrow's race. We have worked hard all weekend and we know what to expect from our chosen tire. It will probably be hot tomorrow which will make tire performance crucial. The fact we are not on pole is not too worrying as we have shown that we can win even when we have not been ahead of the entire field in qualifying. Bridgestone has come up with good tires and we have a very competitive car, so we have all we need to fight for the win tomorrow."
Ralf Schumacher (3rd, 1:31.619): "We can be fairly happy about today's result. In the first and second sectors of my flying lap I was really quick but then I lost some advantage in the last part. However, 3rd and 4th are good positions to start from for tomorrow's race - especially for me, as I will start from the cleaner side of the track. We were expecting more difficulties here at the Nurburgring but today's result proves that we are working in the right direction with the FW25, especially because Kimi, Michael and myself are so close together. We have made the right choice of tire for the race and I also believe Michelin have an advantage on this track. It's going to be a long, hot and interesting race tomorrow."
Juan Pablo Montoya (4th, 1:31.765): "I am obviously a bit disappointed as I was expecting something more from today's qualifying. The balance of my car wasn't quite as good as it was this morning and this cost me a place in the top three. However, I believe we're set to have a good race tomorrow. The car has been working very well in the last few races and I am confident we have a good strategy."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "Second row on the grid is definitely a good place to start the race from and we are quite confident that we will compete well. The cars are well set up and we have a good strategy for tomorrow's race."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "We have seen a very tight performance in today's qualifying as the lap times of the top three are within a tenth of a second. For the third time in a row Ralf and Juan Pablo have demonstrated an excellent qualifying performance which gives them every chance for a good race result tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen (1st, 1:31.523): "It's a bit of a dream and slightly better than the Canadian GP qualifying and to get my first pole position at Mercedes- Benz's home race is fantastic. The car has been good and fast throughout the weekend. It's pretty close at the front and I have been told qualifying was very exciting, but I didn't have any idea of what times the others did as I was just sitting in the car waiting to go out and not looking at the screens. We knew that if we got everything right we could do it and we did."
David Coulthard (9th, 1:32.742): "The balance of the car was not as good as in the warm-up. The car touched the ground a bit in some places, and I locked up at turn one, which cost me time. We will do the best we can in the race tomorrow, and I believe it will be a case of strategy and reliability."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "An excellent performance from Kimi resulting in a well deserved first pole position but a disappointing qualifying for David. We have not compromised our race strategy on either car, and as a result good finishing positions are more than possible. The continuos competitive performance of the MP4-17D puts the team in the enviable position of having the option to take an even more cautious approach to the race introduction of the MP4-18."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A perfect lap and a career first pole position for Kimi after an exciting qualifying session. This is the third time this year he has been on the front row, but the two times before he was marginally away from pole. Today he is ahead with 32 thousands of a second. Our team did a great job and with the speed shown so far we have a good basis for tomorrow's race. From David's place on the grid a good result is still possible."
Jarno Trulli (6th, 1:31.976): "I am definitely pleased with my position, and also with the team's performance this weekend. We have worked hard since yesterday morning, because we had neither balance nor performance when we began. After qualifying, however, our position is definitely promising; I now hope the race will be good to us tomorrow."
Fernando Alonso (8th, 1:32.424): "It was a good run for me: there were no mistakes, although the car balance still wasn't perfect. I haven't had any problems all day, and we worked hard to find the right compromise on set-up. I'm happy to be starting from the top ten tomorrow."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "We did not start the weekend in the best of shape, but a lot of effort by the whole team, including the drivers, has brought us to a much more competitive position. Bearing in mind the strategy we have chosen, and the good performance of our Michelin tires this weekend, we feel we will have a hard but rewarding race."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "This is a very fair result, which puts us in position to challenge our usual rivals tomorrow. We have learnt a lot since we arrived yesterday, and we now have the tools we need, as much in terms of speed as race preparation, to compete well. After a problem-free day, we are, as usual, confident for tomorrow."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (15th, 1:34.000): "I had to change to the T-car just before the qualifying. We didn't have the chance to set it up properly and I had quite a lot of understeer. But with my result we are not far away from our target for tomorrow. It's a shame for Nick. I wish we had two T-cars available!"
Nick Heidfeld (20th, No Time): "I have to say a big 'thank you' to my crew after they changed the engine in very little time just before the qualifying session. That was a fantastic achievement! Unfortunately, I then suffered from a technical problem with the downshift while braking for the first corner, so I didn't have a chance to make it."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Today required strong nerves! After two engine problems in the warm-up, the causes of which we are still analysing, Nick's car needed an engine change and Heinz-Harald had to switch to the T-car. Due to the new regulations it's not allowed anymore to do an installation lap with the T-car. Under those circumstance Heinz-Harald's result is gratifying. In Nick's case we had to achieve the impossible task of changing the engine in 32 minutes. Already after 25 minutes we were able to fire it, and after 28 Nick was ready to go. This was fantastic, and a very impressive achievement. My sincere compliments to our mechanics - if only everything would go that well! Unfortunately Nick wasn't able to exploit this excellent work as an as-yet undefined hydraulic downshift problem was responsible for his spin in the first corner."
Giancarlo Fisichella (13th, 1:33.553): "Thirteenth is nothing special but we were able to improve the balance compared to this morning so it's better than it could have been. As I said yesterday, I don't think we are competitive enough. It's going to be difficult to score points in this race."
Ralph Firman (14th, 1:33.827): "It was disappointing that I lost a lot of track time in practice this morning as I think it may have cost me in qualifying. We haven't had any other problems and it's worked out really well all weekend apart from that. I'm quite happy with how qualifying went although I did made a small mistake on the lap. You can never get it absolutely perfect but you can always aim to get it better and I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how we end up."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "Qualifying didn't turn out too bad. As always it's hard to know how we compare to the rest, with different strategies, so we're just doing what we think is right for us. Having two cars side by side on the grid is reasonable, as it just shows that is the pace of the car. Ralph's come on well since the beginning of the year, to be up there almost matching Giancarlo. He's less than three tenths of a second off and I think it's a pretty creditable position. We are hoping for a nice safe first corner, a good race and some points if we are lucky."
Mark Webber (11th, 1:33.066): "I am pleased with what was a fairly tidy lap. I braked a little too deep going into Turn 4 and that forced me to go a little wide on the outside of the corner. That said we are very pleased to have ended up in P11 given the focus that we have been putting onto the race for tomorrow. We've had to compromise a higher qualification position for this but everything looks good for tomorrow providing we have a hot race. The balance of the car is very good and Michelin have again proved their worth ? something they have been doing since Melbourne. They certainly have the upper hand in the tire war right now and let's hope we can put all this to good use tomorrow."
Antonio Pizzonia (16th, 1:34.159): "Not the best I could have done but we have a good race car for tomorrow. I struggled a little this morning in trying to find a good set-up for the car and that is frustrating given how well we went in the dry yesterday. The balance of the car on scrubbed tires is good and this will bode well for tomorrow but over one fast lap, it got difficult to handle in places. It would have nice to have been higher up the order today but finding a good set-up on new tires was difficult this morning. Our biggest enemy tomorrow will be the rain and as long as it stays dry, I can make an impact on the race for sure."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "A pleasing day which ended-up with pleasing qualifying performances from both drivers given their respective strategies for tomorrow. We have done nothing apart from focus completely on race set-up and race strategy and from that perspective, we are well prepared. Both drivers have done a good job so far this weekend, with their lap times getting better and better on each outing. tire performance will play a big part in tomorrow's race and we have adopted a strategy that we believe will work well for us tomorrow. We have suffered no issues with the car all weekend and as long as we have reliability on our side tomorrow, we should be capable of a points challenge."
Jenson Button (12th, 1:33.395): "I'm pretty happy with my lap considering the difficult start we've had to the weekend. I had planned to be a little more cautious through the Veedol chicane but as this was qualifying I decided to give it some instead! I was pushing hard throughout the lap but we were still struggling for grip so the car was very twitchy. It's been a tough weekend so far and we've had to try a lot of things with the set-up to improve for today. The balance isn't too bad now, we're just not quick enough. It would be nice to have some rain tomorrow but I don't think it's going to come. We'll just have to make the most of the strategy and to do what we can from the sixth row."
Jacques Villeneuve (17th, 1:34.596): "Today was a bad day. It's never a good thing to go out first for qualifying but on top of that I had a bad lap. The car was sliding and I braked too late into turn one, locked the front wheels and lost a good half-second as a result. We changed the set-up just before our qualifying run and it made a bigger difference than expected. We also ran a good race strategy fuel-wise so there were a number of reasons for us being slower, but even without the mistake we would probably only have been 15th today. I'm sure it will be a very tough race tomorrow because we'll be starting well behind where we normally should be and that will hurt us for sure."
David Richards, Team Principal: "We have been struggling for grip in the dry conditions here all weekend and therefore Jenson's position in qualifying was probably as good as we could have expected. Jacques will understandably be disappointed with his qualifying position, but he usually fares better in the race and is confident with his set-up for tomorrow. Given the number of incidents that have occurred in the F3000 race here today, tomorrow's grand prix could be equally exciting and who knows what might happen?"
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "It has been a difficult two days for the team as the car has clearly not been working well at this track. We had two very busy practice sessions this morning trying to find a suitable set-up and in the end we are substantially happier with the car than we were on Friday. A low-grip circuit like the Nurburgring tends to accentuate any weaknesses with the package and we are now focusing on these areas for the next race and test. "Jenson's qualifying lap was as good as we could hope for this weekend. Unfortunately, Jacques made a mistake in turn one which compromised his lap. The target for the rest of this weekend is to try to collect some points, which will be quite a tough challenge."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Jenson did a good job today, considering the fact that he hasn't been able to get the best out of his car so far this weekend. We're satisfied with the reliability of our engines and I believe the package is capable of delivering some points in the race tomorrow."
Jos Verstappen (18th, 1:36.318): "This morning, in the second session, we were struggling a little to find a good set-up, and then we lost some track time with a wiring loom problem just while we were trying different wing configurations. We then went in a direction with the chassis for the warm-up session that didn't really work, but we sorted it out for qualifying and the car was definitely better. I was reasonably happy with my lap time this afternoon considering the fuel load. This race track is obviously harder for us than the last one. We need more downforce to improve our lap times here."
Justin Wilson (19th, 1:36.485): "I'm fairly pleased with today's performance. I lost out a bit to Jos in the first sector of the lap, but we are running different wing levels. Overall, I've been able to push Jos a bit today, so I'm pleased with that. The car is well enough balanced now, but we are just lacking grip here. I'm happy with our strategy for tomorrow and we'll see how things go in the race."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "It was slightly disappointing not to be able to repeat our performance of yesterday; however, it is clear that Minardi currently needs wet conditions to show its true potential. As usual, both drivers gave 100 per cent, and we'll just have to wait until tomorrow's race to see if we can take something positive away from this weekend."
Olivier Panis (7th, 1:32.350): "I am really quite happy with my lap. We have been very competitive all weekend and I think that everybody has worked tremendously hard to get the cars to go well around the Nurburgring this weekend. We had a good car from the first session yesterday, so it was a shame the rain prevented us from qualifying higher up on Friday afternoon. Going out so early on in the today's session was a bit of a drawback, because I am sure the track improved as more cars went out, however having two cars in the top ten again is a positive result for the whole team. We are improving all the time and I reckon we are in good shape for a points finish in tomorrow's race."
Cristiano Da Matta (10th, 1:32.949): "I am pleased with the lap today and with our performance over this weekend. We know we have a car that works well around here, as we proved in the practice sessions, and we have actually exceeded our expectations a little bit. We have operated well as a team and I am sure we can achieve a good result tomorrow. Both cars have been on the pace since the first session on Friday and the Michelin tires are working very well, which will be an advantage for us in the race. We have to continue in this way for the rest of the season and keep making this kind of progress."
Keizo Takahashi, General Manager, Car Design and Development: "We are very happy with today's result. We achieved our objective by getting both Olivier and Cristiano in the top ten. After the unfortunate qualifying session yesterday in the rain, we did not lose faith in our abilities for today's qualifying session and we have performed very strongly all weekend. I am especially happy for all our employees in the grandstands who got to see such a positive result today. I think this is great motivation for everyone in the team at our home grand prix and we can be quietly confident for more championship points in the race."