JULY 5, 2003
FRENCH GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT
Williams-BMW takes front row
There were lots of stories about which one could get excited at Magny Cours. BAR had the bailiffs round and the cars were seized. There was need for a court case before the disgruntled creditor was got rid of and the cars were able to run again. There was rain at the wrong moment as that meant that after Friday qualifying we had the unique (to say "historical" is probably going a little far) sight of a timesheet headed by two Minardis. Jos Verstappen was on provisional pole. Hundreds of miles away in Holland there was (no doubt) clog-dancing on the dykes and who knows perhaps the famous Cycling Royals of Europe were doing wheelies up and down Amsterdam High Street. The world had really gone stark raving mad. And then just when every journalist's cup has runneth over Justin Wilson, who is known in the Formula 1 press room as "The Flying Giraffe" (on account of his basketball player-like height), was thrown from the timesheets by the FIA when his car was found to be underweight.
A mistake, cried Minardi. The team had forgotten to adjust the ballast when the decision (a last minute one) was taken to switch Justin from wet to dry tires. Wets weigh more than dries and Wilson did not weigh enough to keep the paddock police happy.
In fact the real story of qualifying was only to be revealed on Saturday and concerned black, round, rubber things. The tire war that has been quietly raging in recent months is a subject about which almost no-one will speak on the record. Obviously a tire company does not want the world to know that its products are not as good as those of the opposition and so everyone is very polite. For the last few races all the Bridgestone drivers have been mystified by "lack of grip". None of the drivers, the engineers or even the computers have been able to spot that the black, round rubber things on which Ferraris and others circulate are not as fast as those built in Clermont-Ferrand. Michelin tires are better. Last year one could not say that but this year one can. The only thing that has kept the news out of the newspapers was Michael Schumacher's victory in Canada, which was a masterful drive on his part and a rather lightweight performance by the Williams-BMW drivers. Aside from that has anyone noticed that Williams in undefeated since Monaco? Even Michael Schumacher's earth-moving talents have not been able to save the day in Monte Carlo and at the Nurburgring.
Finally people are beginning to make rude noises about the Bridgestone tires. Jordan's chief engineer Gary Anderson, a man who has never represented Great Britain in the role of diplomat, said on Saturday morning in Magny Cours that "I have to say that I do not think the tire situation is helping us at all. There is no specific problem with the cars and it is frustrating and annoying."
If there were spin doctors at Bridgestone there might be an argument put forward but the fact is that it would be torpedoed because whenever it rains we get a completely different picture of how competitive the cars are in comparison to one another. When the track is wet enough suddenly the Bridgestone runners are super-quick. In the finest traditions of summer weather in Europe there was rain on Friday morning after the morning test session. For the rest of the day they came and went. The new format of qualifying means that the time at which a driver runs can make all the difference and as the qualifying session went on so the track dried. The fast men, who run first on Fridays, went out on extreme weather tires; the midfield were on wets and the backmarkers were on dry tires. And of course that made for a crazy story. Jos Verstappen was on pole position.
By Saturday morning the weather had improved and everyone tried to cram the work of two days into the space of the two morning sessions. And the normal dry weather story began to emerge. The Michelin men were at the front and the Bridgestone runners were being vague about a lack of grip. As qualifying approached the conditions set the stage for a complete turnaround in fortunes.
The runner order was all over the place, except that Justin Wilson went first. The fourth man to run was European Grand Prix winner Ralf Schumacher and his time was a good four seconds quicker than the best offering from Wilson. Kimi Raikkonen could not beat it in his McLaren nor could Jarno Trulli in the Renault and only Juan Pablo Montoya in the second Williams got within a tenth of Ralf. No-one else looked even vaguely threatening. In the middle of the session Michael the Great emerged, did his best and was three-tenths too slow.
"I was the fastest through the speed trap in the first sector," he said, "but I would like to have traded that for pole position. Obviously we are losing out in the second and third sectors but I don't know why."
Michael knew why. Well everyone did anyway and one has to assume that the World Champion has a vague idea about these things.
Black, round, rubber things.
With the slower men running at the end of the session there were no great surprises and so the session faded somewhat towards the end. Verstappen went to the back of the class as he knew he would and we were left with a Michelin-dominated grid. Michael was third, Rubens Barrichello was eighth but the next Bridgestone runner was down in 12th. Bridgestone was completely dominant between grid positions 14 and 20. Everyone said that things would be better in the race but no-one really believed it. Unless the rain came on Sunday this was going to be another Michelin victory.
"An all-Williams front row in Canada did not result in a victory," said Patrick Head, being unusually cautious in his assessment of the situation. "Ferrari might not look very strong today but you must never underestimate Michael Schumacher."
McLaren had Kimi Raikkonen fourth and David Coulthard fifth and both men said that there was no much to report. The two men were down on the speed of Williams-BMWs and both wondered whether this indicated a different strategy on Sunday - or whether the Williams FW25 really now is that quick. It is hard to tell.
The Renaults were sixth and seventh with Jarno Trulli faster than Fernando Alonso but both were almost a second off the Williams pace. The drivers were talking about getting points not challenging for victories...
The Jaguars were next up with Mark Webber ninth and Antonio Pizzonia not far behind but just behind Olivier Panis in his Toyota. The team was happy. Jaguar's battle was going to be with Toyota as Panis was 10th and Cristiano da Matta 13th. Olivier had hoped for better but found that warmer temperatures made the car more difficult to drive.
Down in the non-Ferrari Bridgestone race Villeneuve was on pole which was a good effort given the trouble the team had had with the police. It was a good recovery performance. Villeneuve was 12th and Jenson Button 14th. The latter had done a particularly good job as his race preparation was compromised still further on Saturday morning. After having had just one flying lap on Friday he lost around half the available time on Saturday with an engine failure. To qualify 14th in the circumstances was a major effort.
Next up were the Saubers with Nick Heidfeld 15th and Heinz-Harald Frentzen 16th. No grip.
Then came the Jordans with Giancarlo Fisichella 17th and Ralph Firman 18th. No grip.
And down at the back were the two Minardis with Jos Verstappen 19th and Justin Wilson 20th and they have never had grip. Things were not helped by the fact that Wilson had to go the spare at the last minute after a driveshaft failure on his own car.
POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE - 5 JULY 2003
1. Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), 1m15.019s
2. Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), 1m15.136s (+ 0.117s)
3. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1m15.480s (+ 0.461s)
Q: Ralf. Third pole in four races, quickest this morning, replicated your warm-up time in your pole lap; it's starting to look a bit easy for you...
Ralf SCHUMACHER: Well, you saw that Juan came very close so it wasn't very easy. It looks like we have a slight advantage with the Williams, so it's great for us being first and second definitely. The team did a great job. Just hope that we make a bit more out of it than we did in Montreal .
Q: How do you feel about the race tomorrow in terms of the dry weather running you've been able to do?
R.Schumacher: This morning it looked that we were always a lot quicker than Ferrari on the first lap but they seemed to be very consistent and quick, so it's going to be a very tough race and there are still the McLarens as well, so let's wait and see.
Q: Juan Pablo, how did qualifying go for you?
Juan Pablo MONTOYA: Extremely well. This morning I was struggling with the car a lot. I wasn't very comfortable with it, I was driving, I couldn't really push the car because it would just snap or go or something. For qualifying, at least it felt a lot better. I had a big understeer in turn two, I lost a lot of time there in sector one, about two tenths off my morning session time. But apart from that, everything went really well. We got from being six tenths behind this morning to a tenth. It's a lot better.
Q: Fastest, in fact, in sector two.
Montoya: Yeah, sector two was pretty good, sector three as well. I picked up three tenths from this morning. It was definitely a lot better and I think for tomorrow we're going to have a really good race car.
Q: Michael, the temperature seemed to soar as you went out, up to 36 degrees; did that have much impact on your lap?
Michael SCHUMACHER: I didn't notice that. I don't think so. I don't think it was a major variation and what you see as the official temperature, it (the thermometer) is positioned where the sun can hit it. If the sun is out, it gets warm, if it's in the clouds, it gets cold, so I don't think what you read there is realistic.
Q: Your brother had just said that after your good long run this morning you're in good shape for the race tomorrow. Would you agree with that?
M.Schumacher: I hope he's right.
Q: One has to say that you had a spectacular incident with Juan Pablo in the previous race; you're starting close to him tomorrow, what are your thoughts going into the race?
M.Schumacher: We have been very close to each other very often so I have no feeling about it. That's part of racing, that's what I look forward to.
Q: Is Ferrari's performance about where you expect it to be this weekend?
M.Schumacher: Probably not quite, no, because it's a circuit that should have been good for our car.
Q: Where do you think you might be losing at the moment?
M.Schumacher: I don't think we lose. I think the other guys have got very strong, that's the point.
Q: Ralf well done. It's been quite a six days really, a win, your birthday and now pole position...
R.Schumacher: Yeah I have been good and the weekend has started good, but there is no points for pole position.
Q: So you would just like it to finish up like last weekend?
R.Schumacher: That's the target, yeah.
Q: We were saying at the start of the season that poor old Ralf doesn't seem to have got the hang of this one-shot qualifying. What have you changed because you certainly have got the hang of it now?
R.Schumacher: Certainly I didn't like the beginning of the season from the results. I knew from last year, if you go through the records, usually at the beginning of the qualifying I've always been reasonable. I think there were a few difficulties and maybe personally maybe I didn't get on very well with the car to start with, it seemed to be difficult to find a set-up and I didn't feel comfortable with it. Since a couple of races it seems to be a bit better.
Q: Have you changed your mental approach to qualifying in any way?
R.Schumacher: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: Second fastest straight-line speed going into the Adelaide hairpin, is that something that you were working away at as well?
R.Schumacher: For sure you always need to look at the speeds to not be overtaken on a long straight, which can always happen. Ferrari is very strong in the first sector, through the first two turns, so we need to watch our back a bit.
Q: I was also amused to see you waited until after Jos ' (Verstappen) run before you congratulated the team...
R.Schumacher: Well anything can happen and to be honest it is a bit of respect against the driver as well. They are all good racing drivers and you have to wait until they finish.
Q: But obviously you were pleased with the lap...
R.Schumacher: The lap was good as always. You know all three of us will have a little mistake but that is the way it is.
Q: Juan Pablo yours....
Montoya: I had big understeer in turn two, lost a lot of time, and in turn seven but apart from that it was a pretty good lap. I picked up a lot of time from the morning, I really wasn't comfortable with the car and came in after warm-up and I was like you know 'I'm driving the car round but I'm not really pushing it'. Every time I was pushing the car I was quite uncomfortable and in qualifying I managed to get a good lap in. It felt a lot better, probably the best it felt all weekend, but probably a little too late.
Q: What did you change from this morning?
Montoya: Everything. Everything in the car. We worked very hard to get where we want to be and it seems that we are going in the right direction. Both cars are set up quite similar and I think tomorrow could be an interesting race.
Q: What about the McLaren challenge, are you surprised it is not as strong as it might have been?
Montoya: I think this circuit suits us pretty well, we were on pole last year as well. I think this is a very good track for Williams.
Q: Michael, very quick straight line speed and also the fastest time in sector one from everybody. Are you pretty happy with that, is that what you want given the possibilities of overtaking tomorrow?
M.Schumacher: If I could trade this against pole position I would have traded it. It is nice but it doesn't mean a lot if you are too slow in the other sectors.
Q: What is the situation with the other sectors, the importance of sectors two and three for example?
M.Schumacher: We are simply too slow. I am not able to compare because I do not have an overlay of those guys compared to me and I could probably answer that better.
Q: Do you think you are lacking grip?
M.Schumacher: Generally you need grip, but you need grip in the first sector too. So it is not just a matter of grip.
Q: Is this pretty much the same situation as the 'Ring last weekend?
M.Schumacher: We will find out tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: What are your feelings about the new sections here?
R.Schumacher: I personally think they did a good job, another overtaking opportunity. The last chicane was always a bit dodgy so a very good change.
Montoya: Less exciting than last year. I thought last year was a lot better. It is a shame they made a really good braking but they put a corner before that. If you get a good run out of turn seven you can't really pass anybody because they can go wide and make the arc you know. It could have been a lot better job I think. It is a good job but if they were looking to find overtaking spots....
M.Schumacher: To me I feel it is better than what we had because these twisty slow bits, the last sector, was sort of Mickey Mouse style flying over the kerbs and destroying cars on so on. I think it is a reasonable improvement. I'm happy.
Q: Question to Michael. You are almost half-a-second behind your brother, from where does the difference come from?
M.Schumacher: From the second and third sector. How can I answer this, I have no clue.
Michael Schumacher (3rd, 1:15.480): "We are not quite where I expected to be, as we thought this circuit would suit our car better. I don't think we have a problem in any particular area as it is more a case of the opposition getting stronger. It's true I am quickest in the first sector which could give an overtaking advantage, but I would trade that for pole if I could. At least third place means I am on the clean side of the track, which could be helpful tomorrow afternoon. As for the changes to the circuit, I think it is a reasonable improvement over the old layout which was twisty and slow and a bit Mickey Mouse. After what happened at the Nurburgring,starting next to Juan Pablo is fine. We have been very close very often and that is part of racing and I am looking forward to it."
Rubens Barrichello (8th, 1:16.166): "I am very disappointed. On my quick lap, the car was handling differently to the way it had done in the warm-up, picking up a lot of understeer. All day, I had been quickest in the first sector, but in qualifying no less than four drivers were quicker than me. Now I have to hope for a good result in the race, but it will be hard. So far we have had a very reliable car and we will be counting on that."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "We knew it would be a very tough qualifying session and so it proved. Michael managed to grab third place on the grid by a whisker, which will be important for tomorrow's race. Unfortunately, Rubens had too much understeer on his lap, evident from the first split time, at the end of a sector where he had previously been very quick all day. The race should be very close between the various chassis-engine-tire packages. Given the points allocation system this year, reliability will be the crucial factor."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "Naturally, we are disappointed with the way qualifying went today, as we were unable to fight for pole position. We hope to get a good result tomorrow, mainly through our reliability. It is clear that we have to improve the performance level of our package. We know what we have to do and we will be working flat out, along with our technical partners, to do just that in the coming weeks."
Ralf Schumacher (1st, 1:15.019): "I'm delighted with my pole especially when I think that I went out fourth when the track had not reached it's optimum condition. My lap was reasonably clean but it wasn't the best lap I've done due to some understeer in the third sector of the lap. It's obviously positive to be nearly half a second in front of my brother's Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren Mercedes. I hope we will convert this 1-2 into an even better result than we had in Canada, where we finished 2nd and 3rd."
Juan Pablo Montoya (2nd, 1:15.136): "All in all it was a positive qualifying for me. If you look at this morning's times, I was about seven tenths slower than Ralf and it looks like I have now closed the gap to him slightly. The car wasn't handling particularly well during my fast lap causing me to lose some time. I'm pleased Ralf and myself are on the front row and I think that the Michelin tires have the upper hand over the Bridgestones here."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "It was again a good effort by the team to put both cars on the front row again after Canada. The car is really competitive here and this is a credit to all the people working in the factories in Grove and in Munich. We are definitely looking forward to a strong race. It's also great for Michelin to be on the front row of the race for their home Grand Prix."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "For the fourth race weekend in a row we are very competitive in qualifying. It reflects all the hard work that is being done by the team and it's partners. In Magny-Cours, the aerodynamics play an essential role so it's obvious WilliamsF1 have made enormous progress during the last few weeks. Another part of the success belongs to our tire partners, Michelin. In free practice it looked like the car's fast but also both of our drivers do very well here, the small gap between their times shows this."
Kimi Raikkonen (4th, 1:15.533): "I think we did the best we could, and hopefully it will pay off tomorrow. I struggled a bit with understeer in the third sector, which cost me some time but apart from that I'm quite pleased with our starting positions. The Michelins have been working well and the hotter the weather gets, the better as far as I'm concerned. We will see what happens in the race, but I think we are in strong positions to score important championship points."
David Coulthard (5th, 1:15.628): "A better qualifying for me than in previous races so in that respect I'm pleased. I was driving defensively to try and keep the lap tidy. Now I already look back and know that I could be a couple of tenths quicker if I had pushed more. The car responded well, and I was able to get through turn 13 quickly where we have struggled somewhat so far. I'm confident that we can have a strong race."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Both drivers put in tidy laps which coupled with our race strategy should give us a very good opportunity for good results tomorrow."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A solid basis for the race. Kimi and David are within half and one and a half tenths behind the Championship leader Michael Schumacher on the second and third row. It will be interesting to see who will be on which strategy in tomorrow's race."
Jarno Trulli (6th, 1:15.967): "I am extremely happy with the result today. I had some difficulty in finding a good set-up at the start of the morning, but we made good progress. However, when you look at the teams in front, I don't think we can compete for victory tomorrow. Having said that, tomorrow will be a long race and we can still be confident of a good result."
Fernando Alonso (7th, 1:16.087): "My lap was pretty good. I had a problem-free day, completing lots of laps on race and tire preparation work. As for the flying lap, I'm happy with it: I didn't make any mistakes, and the balance was good, which allowed me to achieve the car's potential today. In terms of the strategy, I am confident that the race will once again see us score some more championship points."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Good laps from both drivers today, and we managed to achieve a reasonable balance on the cars although, as always, we would welcome a little more grip. The wet weather yesterday makes it more difficult to predict the other fuel loads, but we feel we are in a competitive position. As can be seen from the times, the Michelin tires are very competitive, and should stand up equally well in the race."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Today's results demonstrate that, although we cannot expect to compete for the win, we are legitimate and serious challengers for tomorrow's race, and are well placed to make the most of any incidents. We had a problem with Jarno's engine just before the session began, but managed to solve it in time for his run. Once again, our drivers' performances are very close and, for tomorrow, the current unstable balance between the top teams would only need to shift a little for us to score a podium finish."
Nick Heidfeld (15th, 1:17.445): "I think I had a good run but nevertheless I am not happy with my result. I am now hoping for a problem-free race, such as I had at the Nurburgring a week ago which proved that we can perform well under good conditions. But we have to wait and see how it will be tomorrow."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (16th, 1:17.562): "I had a good lap, but it was impossible to achieve more today. My car suffered from understeer and some tire graining, but we expected that."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "We are not happy with these positions, that's for sure. But from a factual point of view we had to expect them. We were hoping to get closer to the BAR cars. But the clear difference to the first half of the table is a matter of tires, rather than the performance of the car itself."
Giancarlo Fisichella (17th, 1:18.431): "Well, I made a mistake in my lap but without it I would probably have been in the same position anyway. We are nearly three seconds slower than the pole position time which I'm obviously not happy about. We need something more, a big step forward as I'm not really feeling confident. I am very disappointed, but at least we're not on the last row."
Ralph Firman (18th, 1:18.514): "As the circuit picks up grip we've had a lot more oversteer. I made a slight mistake in the last sector but I don't think it affected my position. It's difficult to know what strategies other people are on, maybe ours will help us. We'll have to wait and see how we go tomorrow."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "With our strategy we weren't expecting to qualify very high and we're just hoping everyone else is doing five stops! Poor grip has been the story of our weekend and at this type of track it's grip that matters. Every corner depends on it, as it's all reasonably high speed and it has a slippery surface especially when it is hot. We just haven't got the grip and we're not quick enough, it's quite simple. From a team point of view, it's disappointing and we're going through a stage when we have to work harder."
Eddie Jordan, Team Principal:
Mark Webber (9th, 1:16.308): "A pleasing lap but I felt I could have maybe squeezed an extra couple of tenths out of the car given that I achieved a 1.16.01s this morning. Michelin obviously have the upper hand in the tire war right now and combined with our ever-improving race package, I'd say we are well placed for more points in tomorrow's race. The top four teams are doing a great job and we need more time to develop and attack them - not something we can achieve overnight."
Antonio Pizzonia (11th, 1:16.965): "That was a good lap and the best I could have got from the car. We achieved some good work this morning and spent a lot of time doing long runs and thinking carefully about tire choice for the race tomorrow. We have worked very carefully on race strategy too and I must say that I am very much looking forward to tomorrow. The team has done a very good job this weekend and combined with Michelin's strengths, there is nothing to stop us from entering the point's challenge tomorrow. A lot obviously depends on what happens up front but we are well prepared and that's the best we can hope for."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "We've had another good day and no issues with the car. Our morning sessions were focused on tire work - something we haven't been able to do too much of in dry conditions this weekend. We also undertook some longer runs this morning and both drivers are very pleased with the pace and balance of the Jaguar R4. Michelin's contribution has again been nothing short of excellent and our tire choice for tomorrow's race is correct. Both drivers did a good job in qualifying and given that we are sitting behind the top four teams, there isn't much more we could have done at this stage of our development. The reliability and competitiveness of the Jaguar R4 continues to strengthen and assuming there are no wild surprises tomorrow, our strategy should help us scrap for points."
Jacques Villeneuve (12th, 1:16.990): "I'm quite pleased with the lap because it was better than I had anticipated. I had good balance and everything worked fine but we got as much grip as we could from the tires and 12th is where we are today. There were a couple of tenths to be had maybe, because it was a good lap but not a crazy lap, but nothing that would have put us any further up the grid. It's going to be another tough race tomorrow."
Jenson Button (14th, 1:17.077): "We haven't really had any running time in which to set the car up properly, so the lap was OK considering. I've only done about 40 minutes work out of an available two and a half hours of free practice time as a result of us having to withdraw from yesterday's first session and then an engine problem which put me out for most of the third session this morning. Most of the work I have done has been for the race so 14th was the best I could hope for in qualifying. It's never a good thing to be one of the first on track in qualifying, then on my lap I got a bit too much understeer in the first of the three new corners and lost a couple of tenths there, which is quite disappointing. The car generally feels quite good though and I'm confident about our strategy, so we'll just have to wait and see what the race brings now."
David Richards, Team Principal: "After yesterday's heavily compromised running, the team made a good recovery today, although this was further hampered by Jenson's engine failure, which effectively ruled him out of the second session. As has become the norm recently, we strengthened our position as the number two Bridgestone team after Ferrari. I was pleased to see Jacques back on form, and I think that it is perfectly reasonable to hope for some further points tomorrow from both of our drivers."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "The car is working well at this track so we were able to focus on the evaluation of both of our tire choices here and are confident in the tire we have chosen for the race. The team did a good job to get Jenson out for a few laps at the end of the second session today after it failed right at the end of the first session. Although Jenson was hampered by his lack of running this morning we qualified more or less as we expected and are happy to be the second Bridgestone team since we knew it was going to be difficult at what is, in effect, Michelin's home track."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Although our starting position isn't great I think we did okay today. Jenson didn't have much time on track this morning due to the engine change, which obviously put him at a bit of a disadvantage. We have to push to get a good start tomorrow and fight for points."
Jos Verstappen (19th, 1:18.709): "It's back to reality today, but we knew that was always going to be the case. I was pleased with the lap I did. I drove on the limit, there weren't any mistakes, and I'm happy with the result."
Justin Wilson (20th, 1:19.619): "It was a bit hectic just before qualifying, when I had to jump into the T-car, which was set up for Jos. The important thing, though, was that we got a lap in, as yesterday's didn't count. I was told not to be too concerned with the lap time and just ensure that we qualified for tomorrow's race, which is what I did. Now we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "It's not a surprise that the euphoria of yesterday didn't continue today; however, whatever happens, no one can take those magic moments away from the Minardi team when we were P1, and almost P2, in Friday's original qualifying session. Rather than in any way being sad, the team is quite upbeat about today's performance, and particularly impressed that we're only a few tenths off the Jordan and within reach of the Saubers. All in all, it has been a good weekend so far for European Minardi, and wouldn't it be nice if we could take a point home from tomorrow's race?"
Olivier Panis (10th, 1:16.345): "I'm happy because starting from the top ten again is a very positive result for the team, especially at a difficult track like Magny-Cours. I expected a little bit better, but the track temperature changed a lot since warm-up and even during the session, which made grip levels lower. I think everybody has done a good job and we have made continuous improvements to the car over the weekend. We should be optimistic - I am in the top ten for the third race in a row and now we have to turn that into a good race finish tomorrow in the points."
Cristiano Da Matta (13th, 1:17.068): "We have taken a slightly different strategy to usual, with more emphasis on tomorrow's race, rather than this afternoon's qualifying session. With this in mind, I am quite pleased with my lap. I don't think I could have got much more out of the car, although I could have gained some time in the last chicane, maybe one or two-tenths. I thought a top 12 would have been possible, and we are not far from that in 13th and from there it should be a good race."
Keizo Takahashi, General Manager, Car Design and Development: "Although Olivier achieved the team's fourth top ten qualifying result in a row, reaching our qualifying objective, I am a little disappointed because we were aiming for slightly higher positions. Both drivers did a good job, but the track had less grip than we had anticipated. Tomorrow, we are opting for different strategies for Olivier and Cristiano and we will again be fighting for championship points. From tenth and thirteenth, I believe we are well-placed to do just that."