FRENCH GP - FRIDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT

Verstappen on provisional pole

Jos Verstappen, French GP 2003

Jos Verstappen, French GP 2003 

 ¬© The Cahier Archive

It is often said that Formula 1 produces stories that are stranger than fiction and at Magny-Cours we had exactly that. The weather conditions were changing and as the track became quicker and quicker so the cars at the back of the field were able to produce better times than those who one expects to see at the front. No-one would have bet on seeing Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson 1-2 for Minardi but that was what happened, much to the delight of the Minardi fans around the world and the Dutch press in particular.

At the start of the session the track was damp and the early runners had to go with extreme wet weather tires as the track dried so the situation changed and by the end of the session the final few runners were on dry tires. You can call it a lottery if you wish but such are the rules and Minardi delivered the goods.

QUALIFYING RESULTS

FRIDAY PHOTOS


Ferrari

Rubens Barrichello (10th, 1:27.095): "I had a difficult morning today with various problems, but I was happy that we were able to make a lot of progress on the balance of the car for qualifying. In the Nurburgring, people were unhappy that the track got wetter and wetter throughout the session and today it was the other way round. It is the inevitable result of the qualifying format and it benefits different drivers at different times. But the most important thing for me today was that I was able to significantly improve my car, so I am in good shape for tomorrow."

Michael Schumacher (11th, 1:27.929): "It was an interesting session and I say well done to the Minardis for taking first and second places. It is a fantastic thing to see. We are where we should expect to be given the track conditions when I made my run, so I am reasonably happy. Given the track conditions this afternoon, I cannot really give an accurate assessment of how the car was performing. This morning was more useful to us as at least the conditions were consistent and the car seemed to work well in the wet."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was a really unpredictable qualifying, with the two Bridgestone-shod Minardis on the theoretical front row and I am happy for the Anglo-Italian team. Obviously, the changing conditions were the deciding factor in this first qualifying session, with the track progressively getting dryer. It means that the running order in tomorrow's second session will be very different to usual. We were able to ascertain that, in the wet, our car on Bridgestone tires worked very well. The weather forecast is good for the weekend and tomorrow morning in free practice, it will be vital to be able to work on dry set-up and tire choice, which we have been unable to do today."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "All things considered, we can be satisfied with our performance on the day. We were quickest in qualifying when the track was still pretty wet. Rubens was not very satisfied with the handling of his car this morning, but was much happier with it this afternoon, thanks to the work he put in along with the team."

Williams-BMW

Juan Pablo Montoya (14th, 1:28.988): "Considering the circumstances, I am pretty pleased with my qualifying lap today. My car was good and it worked fairly well. In the Free Practice session I wasn't very quick because I wasn't very comfortable with the car but it definitely improved for qualifying. Ralf was pretty much quicker than me all morning and to be faster than him in qualifying is obviously positive for me. In the last sector I lost a lot of time through the fast chicane due to the handling of the car, which wasn't how I expected it to be there, so I had to drive under the limit. We have to wait and see what is going on with the weather but I think we are looking pretty competitive and consistent . After all what really matters is where everyone qualifies tomorrow, not so much today."

Ralf Schumacher (17th, 1:29.327): "We had no luck with the weather, but one has to take things as they come and always try to get the best out of a difficult situation. My car had slight understeer but in the first two sectors my time was better than Kimi Raikkonen's, who had gone out just before me on the same Michelin wet tires. However, in the third sector, I had traction problems which cost me quite a lot of time. Now I am concentrating on the decisive final qualifying tomorrow."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "It was a wet session for us and it was the luck of the draw where you qualified. The car was pretty strong in this morning's Free Practice session though. Anyway, we are just looking forward to tomorrow and to some dry running and we are quite positive about the race on Sunday."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Today's qualifying was obviously hampered by bad weather conditions. The first 15 cars went out on the track on either full- or shallow wet tires and the last five cars could even wear dry tires. Actually, the field was turned upside down, which will result in a very exciting final qualifying tomorrow. Our drivers made the best out of the situation and we had no technical problems at all."

McLaren-Mercedes

David Coulthard (13th, 1:28.937): "Obviously the conditions were tricky today with rain during practice and then the track drying during the qualifying session which is reflected in the times. I was running on the full wets like the others before me, so really we have had no dry running today. During practice we were familiarizing ourselves with the revisions to the track. I look forward to tomorrow where hopefully the weather will be better."

Kimi Raikkonen (16th, 1:29.120): "We did all of our running today in the wet but still managed to do some set-up work. The result of today's qualifying really just depended on when you had your run. As both David and I had our laps early on, when the track was wet, I'm not concerned. We will see what happens tomorrow where hopefully the sun will shine."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "There is nothing new in the abnormalities that can come out of a practice or qualifying session which is affected by variable weather conditions. However unlike previous years we now have the single lap qualifying where these variables can have a dramatic impact, which was the case today. With tomorrow's qualifying determining the grid and taking into consideration the competitiveness of the current World Championship I hope that the weather doesn't intervene and subsequently affect the outcome of the race."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Kimi and David were among the first seven drivers out who had to cope with the tricky and wet track. Let's hope for dry weather throughout tomorrow's qualifying or at least for a dry beginning to the session, just the other way around for a change."

Renault

Jarno Trulli (15th, 1:29.024): "A strange qualifying session today. I made some mistakes on my flying lap, which cost me some time, but they were linked to the prevailing conditions at that time, as well as the tire choice. In spite of my position at the end of the session, I think we have worked well today."

Fernando Alonso (18th, 1:29.455): "The timed lap was OK. In changing conditions, you always make some small mistakes, and today was no exception in the first and last sectors. Having said that, we ran on a dry track this morning, and that will be an advantage later in the weekend; we also did a good amount of running in the wet. I think we are pretty strong for the rest of the weekend."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "It is frustrating that, under the new regulations, the weather alone dictates the positions, as we saw today, but it is no more than frustrating, as it is the same for everybody, and we all accepted and understood the rules at the start of the year. Obviously, it puts the big teams at a disadvantage, but this will not be great, as we expect dry conditions tomorrow. At that point, our Heathrow running will once again prove an unquestionable benefit."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "This is a perfect example of the random nature of the new regulations, where the main factor is the weather. The worse a team's position in the championship, the better their chances of qualifying well in these conditions. As for making any judgments, quite honestly it would be a waste of time to try, given the wide range of set-ups different cars will have used according to the conditions. All we can do is concentrate on what we have learned today, and what remains to be discovered."

Sauber-Petronas

Nick Heidfeld (3rd, 1:24.042): "I am happy about my fourth place today, although you have to take into consideration that the weather conditions basically decided the finishing order. I was one of the last drivers going out on intermediate tires, and think I had a good run."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen (8th, 1:26.151): "I think my lap was all right under those circumstances. In the morning there was heavy rain and the track was very wet. Later it started to clear up and so we had fairly dry track conditions while qualifying. It would have been nice if it was the starting grid!"

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "The ranking today is quite interesting. This is actually what Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley wanted to see, and if the spectators like it too, then it's even better for Formula One. However, we probably will not be able to exploit today's gained knowledge tomorrow because if it is dry then we will all have to start again from zero."

Jordan-Ford

Ralph Firman (2nd, 1:23.496): "The team made a good call on tires. I was trying to be cautious at certain parts of the circuit but it was difficult and I made a big mistake which is frustrating, but it's great to be third. It's my first time here and I need a lot more laps in the dry tomorrow to get the hang of the circuit as it's quite technical."

Giancarlo Fisichella (12th, 1:28.502): "It was a strange qualifying session. We did our best with intermediate tires when the circuit might still have been a bit too wet. Today is important but nothing like Saturday so I hope we have more consistent conditions tomorrow, and I wouldn't mind if it's still wet."

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "First qualifying was a bit of a lottery as the track dried out and everybody got quicker and quicker. It's nice to be third with Ralph although he made a bit of a mistake at the penultimate chicane and lost a bit of time. There's not much else to say, it was just one of those days."

>Jaguar-Cosworth

Antonio Pizzonia (5th, 1:24.642): "The car feels pretty good and apart from a minor issue with the gearbox this morning, I have experienced no problems. The balance and pace is competitive and with hindsight, we should maybe have opted for the dry tire in qualifying. Qualifying positions from a Friday do not make a big impact to the weekend but it would have been nice to be on pole! We wanted to play it safe going into Saturday's qualifying and given how good the tire/car combination is around this circuit, I don't envisage any real dramas as we go into the decider tomorrow."

Mark Webber (7th, 1:25.178): "I'm pretty pleased with that lap but the track was getting faster and faster for each new man out. We have certainly prepared well for this weekend and our morning track time was valuable in helping us understand better the behavior of the tires. With weather conditions as dynamic as these, it is impossible to get a handle on where you really stand against the competition and let's hope for a bit of consistency tomorrow. It doesn't really matter to us whether it's wet or dry tomorrow because the car feels good in both conditions. As for this morning's incident with Michael Schumacher, I certainly do not hold him responsible. Ferrari was obviously undertaking some pit-stop practice and as I approached Michael in the pit-lane, the lollipop man lifted the lollipop and gave the 'go' signal to Michael. As it happens, I was driving past and he took my front wing off. I understand the FIA have fined Ferrari and as far as I'm concerned, that's the end of it. These things happen."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "This morning went well for us despite the changing weather conditions. We made the most of the dry session that we had during testing but the rain soon fell and compromised our dry running program. Nonetheless, both drivers did a good job this morning to keep their lap times consistent and we have been working very well with Michelin in an effort to better understand the options available to us here. Mark did an excellent job during qualifying at a time when the track was still wet. His lap was quick, error-free and he is well placed for tomorrow. In Antonio's case, we decided to opt for wet tires because it looked like the track was still wet in the third sector. The Jordan-Ford of Ralph Firman was on the track at the time and with his dry tires, he appeared to be losing time, especially in the first sector. Because of this, we took the conservative approach and sent Antonio out on wets. The weather here is very unpredictable and because of this, today's times mean very little versus grid positions for tomorrow."

BAR-Honda

Jacques Villeneuve (6th, 1:24.651): "I'm quite happy with my lap under the circumstances. It's been a frustrating day but there wasn't anything I could do so I just had to work with what I had in a single lap. We started with a good set-up so that was a bonus and all the work we've done at other tracks in the wet certainly helped us today. It's very hard to produce a great lap when you have no knowledge of how the car is going to react, how it will be under braking and, actually, where is the optimum braking point. There were also some really greasy parts of the track which I was discovering for the first time today. You're never going to be on the limit when you're still finding your way and have three new corners to get to grips with. Hopefully we can settle down to do some proper set-up work tomorrow to prepare for final qualifying."

Jenson Button (19th, 1:30.731): "Today has obviously been quite difficult for us; the track was drying, we hadn't been able to evaluate the tire options this morning and there is a whole new section of the track to familiarize ourselves with, all of which would be challenging even without us having missed the whole of the morning session because of the legal situation. We didn't know how much grip there was going to be on the track generally but specifically in the three new corners, so we decided to be quite conservative with the tire choice and opted for the extreme wet. In hindsight that was obviously the wrong choice but we had nothing to base our decision on and we felt that tire would get up to temperature much more quickly. There is nothing we could have done about today though so we just have to put it behind us now and make the most of the remaining running in preparation for a better final qualifying session tomorrow."

David Richards, Team Principal: "Jacques made the very best of a difficult situation to record an excellent lap time, especially when you consider that he had not seen the new part of the track before. The fact that he ended up seventh was obviously a reflection of the track getting faster, but nonetheless it was a great performance. On the other hand, Jenson was on the track earlier and in hindsight on the wrong tires. We opted for the extreme wets given that he also had not had any running time this morning but unfortunately this proved to be the wrong call."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "Unfortunately we didn't get any running this morning so qualifying was always going to be a challenge for the drivers, this being their first timed lap on the modified circuit. The track was steadily drying and after some debate we decided to send Jenson out on extreme wet tires, whereas in fact it was probably just ready for normal wet tires. Clearly our choice was compromised by not being able to run this morning. We did not have a good balance with his car and unfortunately he was unable to get a representative time. By contrast, Jacques rose to the challenge well to post the provisional fastest time on wet tires on a drying track and was only beaten by six of the following runners who benefited from the rapidly drying track. The rest of the weekend promises to be dry which will help us to minimize the effect of the loss of running time this morning, when the track was mainly wet."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "We've got one driver going out right at the start of the session tomorrow and one in the final third, so hopefully we'll be able to take advantage of whatever the weather throws at us. We have to put this morning behind us and make sure we get the most out of the cars for the remainder of the weekend."

Minardi-Cosworth

Jos Verstappen (1st, 1:20.817): "It was a good qualifying lap on a reasonably dry track. Even so, it was necessary to be careful, as the curbs were wet and it would have been easy to spin the car. It was necessary to take it to the limit on the qualifying run, however, as we don't get too many opportunities like we did today. When you do, you have to take full advantage. It has taken me nine-and-a-half years in Formula One and 101 Grands Prix to achieve this result. I'm very happy for the whole team, and especially for the mechanics, who have all worked really hard ? the result is what we all deserve. The first 100 Formula One races are behind me, and now we have opened a new account."

Justin Wilson (DSQ, 1:20.968): "Despite running right at the end of the qualifying session, the track conditions were still tricky. The surface was wet in places and it would have been very easy to make a mistake. The car felt good, however, and I was pleased at how it performed in the conditions as well as with my qualifying lap. All credit to Jos for his lap, though, which was clearly a good one. It is obviously disappointing to have lost my time as the result of a small technical infringement, but I'm still pleased with what we accomplished. With the weather conditions being so changeable here, perhaps there will be a chance of another surprise result tomorrow."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "What a fantastic day! It doesn't get much better than this. It was a brave decision to go on to dry tires, and it took absolutely 100 per cent effort from both drivers, which is exactly what they gave. It resulted in the most momentous outcome in Minardi's qualifying history. Sadly, it appears that in our haste to change Justin's set-up for the drying track conditions, the boys neglected to take full account of the difference in weight between the wet and dry tires. As everyone is aware, weights are checked at the end of all qualifying sessions, and Minardi never has, and never would, knowingly allow a car to run underweight. We therefore fully respect the FIA's decision on this matter, and the fact is, Justin will always know he crossed the line in P2 at the end of this memorable qualifying session."

Toyota

Olivier Panis (4th, 1:24.175): "It is important for me to perform well in front of my home crowd and I am pleased with the lap today. We decided to go out on intermediate tires given the changing wet-dry conditions throughout the session, but I realized by the first corner that we should have opted for slicks. It was very difficult to predict, though, because the track improved so quickly. All in all, we did a very good job for the first day and we are in a strong position for tomorrow's qualifying."

Cristiano Da Matta (9th, 1:26.975): "A pretty inconclusive session with the ever-changing track conditions we had. In the circumstances, my lap was not too bad, and I think that given my limited knowledge of this track, I got the best out of the car. We went out on intermediate tires, which I think was the right thing to do, although the track was much drier than I expected it to be. I'm satisfied with the outcome of the session, but we will have to wait and see what happens tomorrow, especially if it is completely dry."

Ange Pasquali, Team Manager: "We are happy with our qualifying performance today. It would have been a gamble to send Olivier out on slick tires, so we sent him out on intermediates, but the track was drying out so quickly, it was a difficult call. We are also pleased with Cristiano's position because when he went out it was at the limit between heavy-wet and shallow-wet. Everybody in the pit lane was cheering the one-two of the Minardi's today and I think this is a typical example of what the new regulations can bring, which is fantastic for the sport. Overall, it was a positive day for Panasonic Toyota Racing today. Everyone has worked well and we are looking forward to more of the same tomorrow."


FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 4 JULY 2003

TEAM MEMBERS: Denis CHEVRIER (RENAULT), Pierre DUPASQUIER (MICHELIN), Ange PASQUALI ( TOYOTA ), Jean TODT (FERRARI) and Hiroshi YASUKAWA (BRIDGESTONE)

Q: Pierre , how do you feel about the progress made by Michelin over the last couple of races?

Pierre DUPASQUIER: Why do you begin with me? As usual, we do the best we can. We do our job step by step. We work closely with our partners. We improve significantly also, as well, and at the end of the day sometimes, it's translated in an improvement and in a good time but that's it.

Q: Do you see that you've made particular improvement over the last few races?

Dupasquier: Not really the last few races. The result that appears on the board is just a total thing and many things are involved. If you suppose that the driver is not suspected of being inconsistent, then you have to assume that your aerodynamics, the chassis, the tires are well suited to a track, to the conditions, when the result is good. That's about it.

Q: One of the things you have is three teams who are in the top four places in the World Championship. How difficult is it to keep those three teams happy when they are all in contention for the World Championship?

Dupasquier: We are just a tire supplier and our achievement is if our partners have the feeling that we supply them with the best tires in the world. Having three teams, it just means that three different concept of machines are capable with the same tires, almost, of achieving a good result. When you are only one team, one machine, you don't know where it comes from: is that the car, is that the tire, is that the aerodynamics, is that the engine, the gearbox? You don't know. It's just if the result is good, it's fine. If it's bad, sorry.

Q: You have three teams; Hiroshi-san, to what extent are you looking to perhaps have one more team in the World Championship? All your eggs are in one basket at the moment. Would you like to run one more top team?

Hiroshi YASUKAWA: But I think we now have a very good relationship between Ferrari and ourselves, and Ferrari are developing our tires and we are very pleased.

Q: So you won't be going out to try and get one of Mr Dupasquier's teams?

Yasukawa: If it belongs to him, then I don't want it! (Laughs)

Q: The last race seems to have been a bit of a problem. The opposition seems to be closing; what are you doing about it, and how difficult will it be to draw away when there is this post-Silverstone testing ban?

Yasukawa: I don't know how many races we've done with Ferrari, maybe more than 70 races, we are not good - sometimes good, sometimes bad - but basically we've made a very good result but honestly, normally, if you compare last year's lap time and this year's lap time, normally our achievement is 1.5 to two seconds quicker. But unfortunately, last race at the Nurburbring, we did not improve which means that we have some reason. Now we and Ferrari are looking for some reason, but of course, we have some responsibilities and we will check our tires.

Q: Is this forthcoming gap of six weeks going to be a problem?

Yasukawa: I don't think so. If you are watching today's sessions, the weather is changing of course, but a race is a race. It's not as if we are always going to win, like last year. We won 15 times, we lost just two races. If we dominate everything, it means that these aren't race meetings.

Q: Ange, last weekend was a very good weekend until Sunday. Have you found an instant cure for those problems which stopped your cars in the race?

Ange PASQUALI: Well, at least we have found the cause. We saw on the data that Olivier, when braking, the car was continuing to accelerate. The throttle would remain open, whether it was because he's moving in the car, because we're talking about 5G under braking, so we are investigating that and we have also re-worked the seating †position. It might be that. This is what caused Olivier's spin, unfortunately, while he was running a good race. Concerning Cristiano, it was clearly an engine failure and we have found the problem. We have solved it, and we hope that it's not going to happen again this weekend. We are quite confident. Our people have worked a lot and at least we know the reason why.

Q: Obviously you were fast in Nurburbring, but the reliability wasn't there. Which is the more frustrating: being quick but not reliable, or slower and trying to find speed?

Pasquali: When you're not very fast and reliable, you're frustrated, of course, because we do this sport to show performance and this is why Toyota entered Formula One. When you're quick and not reliable, you're frustrated because you can't achieve the job and you come back home, especially from a Grand Prix like Nurburbring which is the home Grand Prix for us, with nothing in the basket, but that's racing and that's also learning. We are on a learning curve which is quite steep because up to now we have only done 26 Grands Prix. We are very very new in Formula One and we have to remember that. But the most important thing for us, above all, is to learn from our mistakes and to learn from our experience. That's the most important thing for us at the moment.

Q: Can you sustain that performance at the Nurburbring?

Pasquali: Well, I think so. Our technical department has worked massively together with our drivers and our test drivers as well and we can see some improvement, step by step. You know for us even a small step is a very important step at this stage and we are quite confident. It's difficult to position ourselves versus the others but we have to progress above all, first of all versus ourselves, so we have to show improvement according to the previous Grand Prix. That's the most important thing.

Q: Jean, first of all the tenth anniversary of you joining Ferrari...

Jean TODT: There's no trophy for that unh? Maybe we can speak with the FIA.

Q: ...you've achieved so much for Ferrari in that time, in those ten years, what are you still looking to do in the future?

Todt: As long as in my life I look in front of me, I just try to get some fantastic times, even very tough, with people who have been chosen, with the people we are very happy together with and we just feel that it's not yet the time to stop. We have the reward of working for Ferrari. If you like motor racing, if you like motor cars, Ferrari is the best brand in history. So why stop it? There will be time to stop later. The only thing I hope is that we can maintain the level of results.

Q: When you look back, if you look back, what do you think is your greatest achievement in those ten years?

Todt: You know, everyone talks about the best, the worst. In ten years, you can imagine that we've had so many good things, so many bad things. But when I joined Ferrari, Ferrari did not have success in the Manufacturers' championship and in the Drivers' championship for many years and we know that what everybody is aiming for is the Drivers' championship. After 21 years Michael got it in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka 2000. It was what we wanted and why he came to Ferrari, and probably why they took me, to try to make a new structure of the team.

Q: You won the championship at this race last year - which was admittedly a little bit later - but the championship is still very much alive at the moment; how do you see it developing over the next few races?

Todt: I have to say that I was talking with Max (Mosley) a few minutes ago and I said that if you see the starting order for tomorrow, it's what you would have preferred, even for tomorrow afternoon. You know, he wanted to make things more unpredictable. They are more unpredictable, and of course it's not in favor of a strong team which is always trying to be on top of the problems. And the others made a very big effort, they have been progressing on the car side, on the engine side, on the tire side so I think you have to take into consideration that last year was not a normal year and this year is a normal year, and you cannot expect that having the biggest manufacturers in the world involved in Formula One, some of the biggest suppliers in the world, just makes life easy for Ferrari. So it's normal.

Q: Denis you've been with Renault for quite some time. How have you seen it develop, how as Viry-Chatillon changed over the years.

Denis CHEVRIER: It has changed first of all regarding the number of people involved in the stuff so it means we talk about an area which is a bit more than 10 years, we can say 15 years from my point of view, and we have really grown by three times in terms of the amount of people. So we have changed a lot. The technology, every technical staff change as well a lot so it means, the means, the tools, the amount of people, everything is changing. In addition to that there are the rules, which also change our job. We are dedicated to match the rules.

Q: When you look back, you have worked with many of the drivers over the years. Any particular memories? How has their job changed as well?

Chevrier: It has changed in terms of the champion will always be champion in terms of the human point of view and a sport point of view. Somebody has to collect the information and have some talents to get thoughts from other people, to enjoy them to push them at their best and everything. That is always some common things which make some people champions compared to other drivers being only very good drivers. That is always the same and that didn't change. What did change was the environment. When I talk about the environment we can talk about the rules for instance. A few years ago there was no restriction on the amount of laps, there was no more restriction on the amount of cars you could us when we talk about the nineties. So we had some sessions where we covered 70-80 laps with one driver jumping from one car to another one. The relationship with a driver was a bit different. We had more technical things to go through the work of the driver than we do now. That changed a lot. The cars as well changed a lot, how safe they are, the spirits of the people have changed a bit and again many people are dealing with the drivers. There are many people around them now and in terms of an individual point of view there is less time for everybody to enjoy the fun and the sport point of view with the champion.

Q: Another change that has taken place for you is a change of philosophy in terms of engine for next year. How much has that already affected things?

Chevrier: Such a choice has to be made without making any danger for the present season. We have proved that we have a target, which was to challenge for podiums this season, so we are dealing with it and we are producing a reasonable good beginning to the season. Our target is to continue to improve. We have on the program some performance items to come through the season. They have been reasonably productive from the beginning of the season and there some other ones coming and you can't stop a season to deal with a new engine even if its structure is significantly different. You have to deal with both programmes. First of all achieve a good end to the 2003 season, that is the main target, and then deal with the 2004 engine in accordance with the new rules, which played a lot in the change of philosophy we had to achieve. Now it is a different program for many people, some different people because the same people are not involved in both. It is a project with a schedule, with some normal things, to run strongly on the dyno in November/December, engage this engine in the car in January, and then normal stuff.

Q: If I can come back to Jean again. The performance of the tires, was it a worry to you at the last race in Nurburbring?

Todt: I was expecting this question. I must say that I am very amazed sometimes to see how people have a short memory. As Hiroshi mentioned we are now with Bridgestone since 1999, we have all the record of wins and they have to get a big credit for what we have achieved. If the championship was considered to be boring last year I think bigger is due to the advantage we had with Bridgestone. I don't want to say that we don't have a fantastic car, engine, people, the whole package because the whole package works together, but Bridgestone has been giving us fantastic support. Definitely the tires in the Nurburbring were not the best for different reasons, the car was not the best either. We have been sitting together and we have been understanding the reason why we were not as good as we should have been. Clearly the competitors did a fantastic job as well, but we are very happy to be with Bridgestone, and I'm sure with Bridgestone we will make life difficult for all the others for the future.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: Do you think today's qualifying was credible? Is it good for the sport?

Todt: I mean it is dependant on the weather conditions. It is only one lap, which is in the classification order. It is unpredictable and the quickest car was the Minardi because you have to explain why. If you don't explain then people will not understand, but if you explain they will understand and they will feel happy for Minardi.

Dupasquier: I've just found out that a racing car if faster on the dry than the wet. It is good news.

Q: To the two tire chiefs. In the last few races we have seen at the end of the race tires that look like slicks. Of course they were legal because they passed post-race scrutineering, but where do we draw the line between a grooved tire and a slick? And how do explain to fans watching on the television and saying these guys are running on slicks?

Dupasquier: To find out you should ask the scrutineers and the FIA. The second point is that even if a tire looks like a slick on TV because it is moving and because the grooves get full of rubbish during the running time. When we clean the tires afterwards to get rid of the rubbish then the FIA judge if it is good or not. So far it has been judge as a good product, for us at least.

Yasukawa: Normally when driving back to the pit for refuelling that time we are normally doing a tire change. Then most of the cars can keep in groove situation. But anyhow at Bridgestone we are always respectful of the regulations and hopefully we can see grooves. This is what we hope, but sometimes you cannot see a groove from the TV but actually normally they have a groove.

Q: Hiroshi said you were slower in the Nurburbring than last year. After a few days studying the data do you know why?

Todt: One of the reasons was because the circuit was different from last year. That explains a little part. The second thing was because we didn't put everything together that we should have done. Slowly and slowly we have understood the reasons.


THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 13 JULY 2003

DRIVESchumacher: Fernando ALONSO (RENAULT), Olivier PANIS (TOYOTA), Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), Jarno TRULLI (RENAULT)

Q: Olivier, ten years in Formula One. Are you leaner and meaner?

Olivier PANIS: No. First of all, I feel happy about this. I invite you, everyone, to celebrate my first ten years in Formula One and maybe the second time for the next ten years. No, I'm really happy to be honest. It's different, different things in my car already. But I haven't proved anything I want to prove which is why I continue to be really motivated and push really hard.

Q: I hear you're upset that people think you're such a nice guy.

Panis: I am a nice guy when nobody breaks my balls, you know! But otherwise I'm a normal person.

Q: Last weekend, the car performed well, but the end result was disappointing.

Panis: I'm a little bit scared that Jarno is next to me because once again last week we stopped on the same lap. Definitely for us last week it was a really positive weekend from the performance point of view and everybody did a very good job but definitely we are a little bit frustrated, the team and myself, not to finish the race again. But we need to take some positive things from this. We have had some brake problems due to parts failures but at the end of the day we need to improve the situation and I'm sure one time something quite good will happen to us.

Q: Are last weekend's problems going to be solved for this weekend?

Panis: I really hope so. Yeah, I think so.

Q: Now you're the only French driver in Formula One this weekend. What does it need for France to promote more French drivers?

Panis: If I knew I would tell you or the FFSA, you know, to improve this situation. I think now that Jean Alesi works with the FFSA to try to get some young drivers and to help improve them to go up and maybe to put someone in Formula One in the future, but I don't have the idea how to create that. I think we have some very good young drivers like Franck Montagny, like someone really, but now we need big help from a big sponsor, a French company, and maybe the Federation too.

Q: Franck is going to be doing this weekend's test session for Renault; Jarno, how important, how useful has the third driver been this year?

Jarno TRULLI: He's always been very important because we do the Friday morning session so we can collect a lot of data from the engine point of view, from the tires point of view, long runs and different feedback so we've go three drivers and we can work on three different parallel ways. It's good to have Franck Montagny on board this week. He knows the track very well. He's been running here with the new configuration in another category. He already gave us some good advice about this new track, so I think it's also a good opportunity for him as a French driver, and for Renault, as a French team.

Q: What are the changes to the circuit and what do you think of them?

Trulli: Well, they did quite a good job. They've basically changed the last part and they introduced two hairpins and probably a very slow speed corner, like first gear, and a chicane. It's difficult to say whether we can have any overtaking opportunities, but it looks like that before the last chicane we might have some opportunity under braking. We just have to wait and see, it's too early to say until you drive on it so you can get a better and clearer idea.

Q: Now you've raced for Prost and now for Renault as well; are you a bit of an honorary Frenchman?

Trulli: I really think that I've got a lot of support in France , also because I speak French and people appreciate that. I've learned it because I think it's important also for them, to communicate with them. This is a special Grand Prix for Renault and this is special for me because it's just like my second home Grand Prix.

Q: And you hope that you can forget last weekend, quickly.

Trulli: Well, I hope I can forget many weekends. I'm not looking behind me, I'm just looking ahead of me because I know I've got a very good team and for sure, a very competitive car this year. It's just a matter of having a bit better time.

Q: Kimi, have you got over last weekend's disappointment yet?

Kimi RAIKKONEN: Ah yeah. I guess you just need to look forward for that which happened in the last race.

Q: And of course this race last year wasn't too good for you either. It was a bit of a disappointment in some ways.

Raikkonen: Ah yeah, in the end I was close to having my first win but then it all went away a couple of laps from the end but second place was quite good, but OK, disappointing that I didn't win, but that's a year ago and I don't really think about those things any more.

Q: Are you confident that the problem last weekend has been cured?

Raikkonen: Yeah, because we haven't had any problems so far this year and then suddenly we had one in one of the home Grands Prix and it was a big surprise for all us because the engine has been running very good all year and it's the same engine that we have been using. It was one of those things that suddenly sometimes goes wrong and it's not good to have it in the race, but it just happened.

Q: David's had reliability problems as well, the reliability of the car and the engine and the fact that you have a new car and engine coming up as well - †it must be a difficult balance?

Raikkonen: Yeah it's difficult to try to improve both of them. In the end you need to say that this car is like this now and we need to work on the new car. We use whatever we can on this car but I wouldn't say that the reliability hasn't been bad, it has been really good this year and it's the first time really this year that it has been my problem and hopefully we won't have any more.

Q: So you're looking forward to this weekend?

Raikkonen: Yeah, I think so. The car was going well last year and it's much quicker than it was last year at this time and it should be good.

Q: Ralf, this time last year when we came here the championship was virtually won; how do you see this year's championship, it seems to be much more open, doesn't it?

Ralf SCHUMACHER: It looks to be, certainly for the two in front. I don't think we're yet involved in it clearly. That's something we will figure out in the next two races, but it's definitely more interesting for everyone around Formula One to have it that way.

Q: Jean Todt said that Williams were now Ferrari's major rivals now after last weekend.

Schumacher: I hope he's right. We'll find out. †Thanks for the compliments really. From where we started it's great to be in that position, anyway close to it. But you know how quickly things go wrong, looking back last week, so I will be rather careful and see what we do over the next few races.

Q: How do you feel about this race and Michelin here because it's such a tricky surface?

Schumacher: It is a tricky surface, it has always been good to us, we've always been reasonably quick here, a bit unlucky sometimes, but I'm looking forward to this weekend. Michelin has been better for the last three or four races. I don't see any reason at all why it should be different here, so it's pretty encouraging. Hopefully we shall find out tomorrow. Our car has never been bad in the last few races on any of the circuits, so it can be a good weekend.

Q: Last weekend we saw an overtaking manoeuvre to which certain people at Ferrari reacted quite badly; what did you think Juan Pablo Montoya's overtaking manoeuvre?

Schumacher: I think the manoeuvre was alright. Michael, at that point of the corner, couldn't do anything about it because drivers do know that at that stage of the corner, depending on the angle you attack it, you get some understeer. Although Juan left enough room for him but not enough room to react against the understeer, he couldn't do anything about it. I think it was a normal race incident, it was a shame, probably a good overtaking manoeuvre.

Q: Fernando, I think you've also had a look at the circuit today. What are your feelings about the new sections?

Fernando ALONSO: We'll see tomorrow on the track, but today I think it was a positive change because I didn't like too much the last chicane before and now we have two more corners...the one before the last chicane where, as Jarno said, we can have some overtaking opportunities and the last chicane is also quite challenging for the qualifying and for the timed lap for the practice. I think it was a good change and we will check this weekend.

Q: You are in reasonable contention with the world championship, how do you feel about that at the moment?

Alonso: For me it is always difficult to fight with them, but at the moment I have scored many points, 39 points, that for me was a big surprise this season and I am still dreaming each weekend because even when the things look quite bad or we don't have a good balance in the car or something like that, we also get results from that weekend so I think we are doing a good job and we will try to keep this level until the end of the season.

Q: More pressure this weekend because it is Renault's home race?

Alonso: No. I think we always have the same pressure, have to do the maximum that we can. We know that sometimes the results are coming and sometimes that they are not. We will put all the effort in here at Magny-Cours because it is an important race for the team.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: Fernando, a bit of controversy with (David) Coulthard at the last race. Can you tell us in your view what happened?

Alonso: I think this question has been answered so many times. I was happy to prove that I didn't brake early and you know the marshals and race director checked the data in Nurburgring, the laps before, the laps after the incident and you know everything was clear. I braked at the same point and I was happy to prove that...a lot of people talk about if I braked early, if was not sporting and I was very happy to prove I was in a normal situation.

Q: Fernando, has David spoken to you about that incident since?

Alonso: Not really. We spoke in Nurburgring after the accident before we went into the marshals room and it was not really anything important.

Q: Were you surprised to see him go off the circuit at that point?

Alonso: Yes. I took the inside line to protect my position and after the corner I looked in the mirror and David was not there. I feel a little bit bad because it was a good fight for the position and I didn't know what happened really. It was a normal part of the race weekend.

Q: A question for both of the Renault drivers. We've been very interested this year to see the Renault is sometimes up and sometimes down. You had a particularly spectacular race in Barcelona . I wonder if you could tell us the reason for this inconsistency. Is it to do with the weight distribution that you get, which is the advantage of the wide-angled engine, coupled with the lack of power you have because of the sacrifice you have to make with that engine? I'm interested to know if you can give us some explanation that journalists could understand.

Trulli: Our car is definitely a competitive car this year, but we still probably struggle to find the best performance on every circuit consistently. This is coming a little bit from the circuit layout with the engine power, but for example at the Nurburgring we had a problem to get our tire working. That also happened in Austria and in some other circuits. It is definitely a compromise that we are struggling to find. We are working on it to improve it for the future because the Williams, McLaren, Ferrari are much more consistent. Even if you look at them they are still suffering in some circuits more than others. I think it is typical from every chassis and every team, but maybe at the moment we are looking a little bit bad compared to the top teams. But I think we will be able to sort out this problem for the future.

Alonso: I think as Jarno said it is always difficult to find the constant balance with the tires because sometimes they work a little bit better and sometimes a little bit worse. But this happens to all the teams, we see all the teams going up and down in the races. I'm quite happy, I think we are one of the most consistent teams, we are always in the top-eight, top-six and definitely we have to find some solutions to the races where we cannot find the perfect balance with the tires. But this is normal for this type of season.

Q: Can I ask you if you think the narrow angled engine that you will be going to next year is the right way to go. Will you be sorry to see the wide-angled engine go?

Alonso: I don't know. I drive the car. I think we have very professional people working for us and they choose to change the strategy in the angle of the engine and if we change the strategy it is because we will be better. I think Jarno and me are confident it will be no problem for next year and it will be a step forward.

Q: Kimi, this time last year you were trying to win your first race, this year you are trying to win the world title. Does that make a difference in the way you approach the weekends?

Raikkonen: No it doesn't make any difference. Last year was completely different to this year but we are going to have this weekend as any other and hopefully we can go as strong as last weekend. It is always different, it depends how we start going and maybe we change something from practice to qualifying if we feel we need to do something different, but so far this year it has been always the same story and I think this will be the same.

Q: Does this make you take less risks in the race because you want to get as many points as you can get?

Raikkonen: No I think we need to take a risk more because otherwise we are not going to catch the people in first. For sure in the races I'm going to get as many points as I can and hopefully fight for the championship.

Q: Fernando throughout the race at the Nurburgring you seemed to be struggling to control the car. It looked quite difficult to drive. How did you feel, how did you manage to keep the pace up?

Alonso: Yeah, the last part especially the last stint on the third set of tires I suffered a bit with the rear end of the car. I probably had some problem with the rear tires. It was difficult to control it. If you see the timed laps I was one-and-a-half, two seconds slower in the last stint and these things happen unfortunately.

Q: Question for Ralf. Given the points situation do you think it will be more difficult to catch your brother and Kimi than it would have been with the points from last year?

Schumacher: To catch someone it can work in your disadvantage, but if you have a problem that kind of disappears quick. Lets wait and see. But as I said before I'm not really thinking about that yet, I think 15 points we are so far away. Just lets wait and see. Maybe try and win this one and see where we are.

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