Montoya leads Williams 1-2

Juan Pablo Montoya, German GP 2003

Juan Pablo Montoya, German GP 2003 

 © The Cahier Archive

There is an argument in Formula 1 circles at the moment over qualifying. The car-by-car format is generally accepted to be a good idea but the problem now is that no-one has the faintest idea what is going on because without knowing the fuel loads of the major runners one cannot judge how successful they really are until after all has been revealed on Sunday afternoons and even then there are so many variables which mean that one will never find out. And we have got heavily into gamesmanship as teams try to discover information about their rivals without giving anything away. Thus it was that on Friday we saw the Ferraris suddenly and inexplicably off the pace. Was the team really in this much trouble? The answer was no but the Italian team had been able to see what the opposition was capable of doing without giving anything away. Now this may all be fascinating for the engineers with the fancy strategy software but if you happen to be the man on the other end of the TV, you may consider that this is not all that relevant.

The result is however quite interesting. On Saturday in Hockenheim it was, in the words of a leading figure in F1, "too f*$@ing hot" and when that happens tire start to do strange things. There are tire boffin types who apparently understand why black round rubber things grip and why they do not grip but there are very few who can explain why it happens one moment and not the next. Sliding tires overheat and form blisters and it then takes some time to "clean them up" so that they perform as well as they did at the beginning. Most of the time the teams mutter and mumble about how important it is to have consistent tires but when you throw in the propaganda which is pumped out by both sides in the tire war, it becomes impossible to know what is happening. The only way one can judge what is good and what is bad is from the results of the races and so it is fair to say that in recent months Michelin has been better than Bridgestone. This has been particularly frustrating for Ferrari which believes, quite rightly, that it has the best chassis in F1. But even that is not as clear-cut as once it was because in recent weeks the Williams-BMWs have become better and better. The FW25 is no longer derided as a tortoise.

McLaren is still there or thereabouts and from time to time a Renault will pop up and grab some headlines before fading back with no explanation as to how it was done and what it all means.

The point however is not whether we understand what is going on but whether or not there is a relevance to the exciting things that happen and it seems this year that the people in the grandstands are voting with their bottoms and not plonking them on seats as once they did. And as bottoms on seats is important because it is the only source of income left to the race promoters, the F1 team bosses are looking again at new ideas. Some of these gentlemen (we will be generous in the use of the word) left the real world some years ago and if they are allowed to vote on the future we could well see midnight slaloms, three-wheeled races and other such gimmicks.

Formula 1 is chasing its tail.

But, after years of Ferrari domination, it is exciting to watch something a little different. The World Championship, which was settled this time last year, will probably go down to the wire and that means that TV viewing figures are on the up, even if the grandstands at races are not as full as once they were.

But it is all relative. Formula 1 continues to pull in huge crowds wherever it goes and before the sport gets itself into a panic it should remember that fact.

Yes, the sport could do better but it's not doing badly at all.

Saturday at Hockenheim was tire-meltingly hot and we had no idea what was going on because it seems that there are any number of strategies possible on a track like Hockenheim. There was talk of one pit stop races and of three pit stop races; of big fuel loads, low fuel loads, soft tires, hard tires and there was even talk of sandbagging. So it was something of a relief when a bird landed at one of the corners and stood resolutely refusing to be frightened by the noisy monsters whizzing past its beak. That was fine until one of the men in Nomex turned Brave Bird into a cloud of feathers.

When we got into the qualifying session the times fell quickly and as the Ferraris had been deliberately off the pace on Friday they ran much earlier than normal in the final Saturday session. At the time Olivier Panis was fastest in his Toyota. Michael Schumacher came out and seemed to be struggling somewhat to beat Olivier's time. He did it but not by much and then Rubens Barrichello sliced four-tenths from Michael's best and the dimbos in the Press Office began talking about a new trend as Barrichello beating Schumacher without even asking if perhaps they were running on different tires with different fuel loads. There were clearly different strategies going on. Rubens was running softer tires. Michael was going for a harder compound in the hope that on race day that would be a wiser choice. Sunday, according to weather forecasts, was going to be a case of survival of the fittest in oven-like conditions and in such circumstances it is the wise and wizened who tend to come to the fore.

Ferrari made out afterwards that all Michael Schumacher cared about was being near Kimi Raikkonen on the grid so that he can shadow his title rival. Michael Schumacher not wanting to win? Not wanting to be fastest? Come on, pull the other one... Michael was not interested in just playing around with Kimi. His strategy might not work but his aim was to beat everyone.

Barrichello stayed on pole for a while and then out came the Williams-BMWs and Juan Pablo Montoya put Rubens in his place, lapping three-tenths faster. And so it was down to Ralf Schumacher, pole-meister in recent weeks. Through the split times it seemed that he was going to beat the Colombian again but in the last sector his car suddenly developed understeer (which in rough translation means that the tires stopped gripping) and he went across the line less than two-one hundredths slower than Montoya. No doubt there was dancing on the streets of Bogota but in what passes for a Media Center in Hockenheim the post-session press conference was quick and easy. Why ask questions when no-one is going to tell you the answer?

"It is not a big surprise for me that we are so strong," said Montoya. "Aerodynamically we are on the same level now as Ferrari and on top of that we have a tire advantage. It is also important that we are able to find the right set-up much more quickly than we did earlier in the season."

Ralf Schumacher was more cautious.

"We should not underestimate Ferrari," he said.

Gerhard Berger of BMW was also very cautious.

"With these high temperatures it is extremely difficult to predict how tire degradation and general reliability is going to be over a race distance."

The story therefore was that BMW Williams had drubbed Mercedes-McLaren on home turf and not even the brilliance of Michael Schumacher was enough to overturn the power of Munich. Anyone would think that these days all the F1 teams are German...

Barrichello was third fastest but Michael Schumacher was only sixth

"I still think we are in a strong position for the race," said Ross Brawn, lobbing in a clue.

There was a Renault up there as well, with Jarno Trulli fourth fastest. For a while this year everyone was praising Fernando Alonso and Trulli's career was rising a banana skin to the door marked exit but now it seems that has turned around. Trulli is the man. Alonso was back in eighth place with a mysterious problems that made the car go slowly down the straight (Could it be an engine?)

"We need to take a long hard look at the data to understand where the problem is," said Alonso, who has clearly not been to the Mark Webber School of Quotability.

Still he is rather better at expressing himself than F1's other rising star Kimi Raikkonen, who has three phrases which he whispers in tight-lipped fashion depending on the circumstances.

Obviously a fan of "Gone with the Wind" Kimi is often heard to say "Tomorrow is another day".

McLaren were fifth and 10th on the grid which is pretty much normal. Kimi's lap was "OK" while David Coulthard was struggling with the spare car having crashed his race car in the morning session.

"As I am now pretty experienced at driving through field it should be all right in the race tomorrow!" said David with a slightly self-mocking tone. Good Lord, a man with his feet on the ground.

Toyota had the big cheeses coming in from Japan on Sunday and so did very well in qualifying with Olivier Panis seventh and Cristiano da Matta ninth, the team's best ever performance in F1.

Da Matta might have done better still but he had a huge moment at the last corner which lost him half a second, which was basically the gap between the two men.

"I was quite angry," he said, "but I guess that I am pleased with that."

But how much fuel were the Toyotas running? No-one knew and they were not about to tell.

Mistakes were the talk of the day down at Jaguar as well where both Mark Webber and his new sidekick Justin Wilson had not achieved what was intended of them.

"It was a mega lap until the penultimate corner" said Webber "but then I asked too much of the rear end and it didn't like it and I guess I lost something like three-tenths there."

Wouldn't it be nice to hear Kimi Raikkonen say something as exciting.

Webber was 11th on the grid.

Wilson did a pretty good job given that his time in the car has been limited. He knows that he is under pressure to perform and he was over-driving.

"I ran wide and then the car came out of the corner on the kerb," he admitted. "I overdid it. I just need to learn a bit more. My knowledge of Michelin tire performance is limited given that I come from a Bridgestone team, understanding what the car and the tires are capable of doing will take a bit of time."

He ended up a disappointed 16th.

As usual anyone using Bridgestone tires and not in a Ferrari was in the back half of the grid with Jordan, BAR, Sauber and Minardi enjoying some more tire-related pain. On this occasion Giancarlo Fisichella was the fastest of them in 12th place on the grid. He was just ahead of Jacques Villeneuve and then came the two Saubers with Heinz-Harald Frentzen 14th and Nick Heidfeld 15th. Jenson Button was bemused because in the pre-qualifying warm-up session his car had been fine. A few minutes later it was all over the place. Nothing had been changed. Jenson was 17th. The same happened to Ralph Firman. He was 18th.

Nineteenth and 20th went to the Minardis and there was no surprise in that. The team's second car is being driven by Denmark's Nicolas Kiesa and after a disastrous Friday when he failed to get going at all he went into Saturday with a crash. The damage was restricted and by the end of it all Kiesa was just a tenth slower than Jos Verstappen. This seemed a good effort but even at Minardi level who can tell. Jos was driving around on blisters rather than tires and had decided to go for hard tires. Being a wise old man these days (!) Jos reckoned that he who finished on Sunday would be in the points...


1. Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), 1m15.167s
2. Ralf SCHUMACHER (WILLIAMS), 1m15.185s (+ 0.018)
3. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1m15.488s (+ 0.321)


Q: It's remarkable to think that this is your first pole this year.

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: I know, it's amazing. It's taken quite a long time to get it. I'm very pleased with it. The car has been working good all weekend. Yesterday the strategy in my car was really good. Today we got more running on the tyres we're going to race and it really paid off. We did a lot of development in the car and I think we've got a really good race car.

Q: It was very, very hot out there. Talk about the race tomorrow - tire wear and, of course, the effect on you as a human being?

Montoya: I think it's going to be pretty interesting. It's going to be hard physically and mentally because you're going to be sweating a lot and the car's going to be having a hard time and I think it's going to show. I think reliability is going to be a big factor. I think we've been pretty strong this year on that and if we can keep it up it's going to be really good for the championship.

Q: Ralf, they started cheering, lots of noise two thirds of the way round your lap but it all fell slightly away towards the end there.

Ralf SCHUMACHER: Yeah, in the last two corners I simply had a bit too much understeer and I just lost it there. But even then it was very close and I'm pleased with the lap, I must say. I wasn't so happy in the beginning of yesterday, even this morning we were still trying to find the balance so the team did a good job. First row - it's brilliant.

Q: What are your thoughts going into the race tomorrow? This could be a critical race in the championship?

Schumacher: Try to take it from the start and hopefully get through the first few corners alright and then see. Last year, I was a bit unlucky, so I hope I have a bit more luck with reliability this year and see where it ends up.

Q: Rubens, Ferrari looked to be in a bit of trouble on Friday but made a great recovery this morning. You were second quickest this morning and it was a great qualifying lap from you.

Rubens BARRICHELLO: Yeah, absolutely, I think the car in actual fact is a lot better than yesterday so thanks to the team, the engineers, the mechanics. In fact we improved the car a hell of a lot. I was very close to the pole but I think that the time that the guys from Williams did was quite difficult to beat, but that's the limit. It was a really good lap from my side. I'm looking forward - whatever comes tomorrow, it's an open mind. I have to have a good start and see if I can go for the top step.

Q: Where do you think BMW Williams have the edge at the moment?

Barrichello: That's difficult to know. You should ask them. On the first sector we pretty much matched, the second sector is where they can do a good time as well as on the third, but I made a lot of improvements on the third sector since yesterday. My tyres are lasting very well up to there, but the most important thing is this morning running a lot of laps, the tyres were surviving very well and I'm quite optimistic for that. Tomorrow we have to see. It looks like we're in Malaysia ; it's so hot, so we will have to see who is the most consistent one doing the good times.


Q: Juan Pablo, you have been on pole before here.

Montoya: Yeah, '01, I was on pole, leading the race and we had an engine failure. Actually, it was through the pit stop, it wasn't actually the engine.

Q: What sort of memories do you have from that?

Montoya: It was good because it was the big track.

Q: Rubens just suggested you might be able to answer the question where you think you, BMW Williams, have the edge.

Montoya: I think aerodynamically we are very close to them now; we are equal with them, that is a big thing. The Michelin tyres are working very well and that is helping us. I think mechanically we understand the car a lot better. Every track we go to we are going in straight away with a good set-up and it seems to be paying off.

Q: Are you fairly confident of the consistency of the tyres tomorrow, though?

Montoya: Yeah, I think we are getting better and better as the weekend goes on. I think the temperature is going to help us out a bit. We will see how the Bridgestone works but I think we are looking quite strong.

Q: And what about tire wear?

Montoya: Well, we will have to wait and see. It is a long race.

Q: What about the temperature. How demanding is that for a Colombian?

Montoya: I think it is the same for everybody. It is going to be hard, but I don't think it will be as hard as Malaysia or something like that. But we will make it as interesting as possible.

Q: How do you feel about the temperature Ralf?

Schumacher: It's nice and warm. Not a problem at all.

Q: Are you a little disappointed not to be on pole?

Schumacher: Well, when it is that close, as always. But then being on the front row is great for the two of us anyway I just didn't get the last sector due to understeer and that was it. But that is the way it is sometimes. Still I think second, you can accept that, can't you, two hundredths?

Q: So, how do you see the race panning out?

Schumacher: It is going to be a tough one. The Ferraris seem to be very consistent this morning. I mean, we have seen in previous races that they are pretty strong on Saturdays and we seem to have the upper hand in the races. But still, with about 50 degrees track temperature everything can happen tomorrow, unexpected tire blistering or whatever. So it is going to be a very interesting race.

Q: Rubens, were you a little surprised to be third?

Barrichello: Not really. I mean, Williams yesterday were really quick and in order to beat them we had to do something on a low 15 although it is a little bit hotter, and I think I took the best out of my car. A 15.4 is what I could do, I couldn't manage anything better. I didn't want to compromise my race tomorrow so I took the chances of a good lap and it worked on the limit. When I saw the first sector I was still looking okay and when they both went through the second sector it looked like they had to just cruise the final stage to be able to beat me so I wasn't surprised at all.

Q: What sort of changes or improvements have you made since yesterday?

Barrichello: Everything a little bit. To be honest we didn't have a good car yesterday, as simple as that, and this morning, since yesterday night with all the work, you know, it was quite okay. I kept it quite cool, my car improved really a lot and I am just happy.

Q: Are you quite confident of the tyres tomorrow in the heat?

Barrichello: Yeah, we have been quite consistent in the morning. The race is going to be different because it is going to be even hotter, but I know what I have to do to make it survive and hopefully with a good tire I can just be with them. See how the race will develop, but I am very confident. Not as good as Silverstone, but it is still on the good side.


Q: Rubens, this is the second race in a row you have beaten Michael. Is this a trend?

Barrichello: In actual fact it is the first time that I have done that. You know, this year I think I have gone through two difficult races, which were Magny-Cours and Canada but having said that I had some other problems that I think caused me to be slower. I made an improvement on car, on set-up and I was much happier. Since the testing we have done in Barcelona I was happier with the car, whether it has gone my way or not I don't know. But it is not a question of beating Michael really; it is a question of beating everyone, like in Silverstone.


Rubens Barrichello (3rd, 1:15.488): "The car is a lot better than yesterday and for that I have to thank the engineers and mechanics for all their hard work overnight and this morning. I was very close to pole, but I was on the limit and could not have done better and I did not want to compromise my race. Most of our improvement came in the third sector. The tires survived well and I know they can do the same over a long distance. It seems that the race could be almost as hot as Malaysia, but I know what to do to look after my tires in the race. So, I hope to make a good start, keep up with the Williams and then we will see who can do consistently good lap times. It might not be looking quite as good as Silverstone, but I am still confident for tomorrow. I am aiming for the top step of the podium."

Michael Schumacher (6th, 1:15.898): "The handling of my car was not ideal this afternoon, so like yesterday, this was not one of my best qualifying runs. I lost time in the second sector and things just did not work out the way I would have liked. Sixth place is not great for the start,especially with the Williams on the front row. However, from a championship point of view,Raikkonen is alongside me so that is not too bad. However, we know that our car performs well in terms of consistency over a long run, so we will have to wait and see how things develop. As usual, I will try my best."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "Once again we have witnessed a very closely contested qualifying session. Rubens' time was only beaten by the two Williams, which ran right at the end of the session. The qualifying result might not necessarily reflect how the race will turn out and I hope we will see a different order tomorrow. As usual, when it comes to the race, parameters such as reliability and car, engine and tire performance will be key factors. We hope to notch up a good result for both championships and we know we are capable of doing so."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "All in all, it was a good qualifying session. I don't think we could have beaten the Williams, but I still feel we are in a strong position for the race. Our tires seem to be consistent, which means we can face tomorrow afternoon with confidence. Having secured third place, Rubens will be able to get away from the clean side of the track. Michael did not get a good second sector, otherwise he would have been much nearer the front."


Juan Pablo Montoya (1st, 1:15.167): "Finally I've got my first pole of this season, It's taken me a long time to get it! It's the second time I am on pole on this track, after 2001. The car was working really good today and we've pulled together, got through a lot of hard work and it's paid off. I am also confident that we are going to have a good race tomorrow. In these conditions tomorrow's race will be hard both physically and mentally. It will also test the reliability of all the cars. Hopefully we can score some good points for both championships."

Ralf Schumacher (2nd, 1:15.185): "I am pleased to be on the front row, especially because I had big understeer in the last two corners, which cost me some time. Thanks to the team who did an excellent job, since the car wasn't that perfect yesterday morning or this morning. Last year I was a bit unlucky on this track and I hope I can make up for that disappointing race. Tomorrow the tarmac could be as hot as 55 deg C and in such conditions anything can happen."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "It was a solid job from the team to get both the cars onto the front row and it puts us in a strong position for tomorrow's race. The aerodynamic improvements we brought to this circuit are clearly another step forward. Also Michelin once again provided us with a very good tire for the heat. We are obviously feeling confident going into tomorrow's German Grand Prix."

Gerhard Berger, BMW Motorsport Director: "It was a trouble free and just perfect qualifying session for us. It is what you dream of for your home grand prix. We are obviously ideally placed for the race and we hope we will fight for victory here. But with these high temperatures, it is extremely difficult to predict how tire degradation and general reliability will be over the race distance."


Kimi Raikkonen (5th, 1:15.874): "I thought my lap was OK but not quite good enough for a top three position. During the last couple of corners I got a bit too much understeer and lost a little bit of time, but things are not too bad. We are in front of Michael and you never know what strategy the others are on for the race. The Michelin tires seem to be working well and I'm on the clean side of the track and have made a few good starts recently so it should be an exciting race tomorrow. It's very hot out of there and they say it will get even hotter tomorrow, but its not too bad once you are in the car working."

David Coulthard (10th, 1:16.666): "Until this morning's second free practice session everything was going according to plan and I felt we were making steady progress. Unfortunately I went off during the second session following a set up change, the effects of which we underestimated and had to qualify in the spare car. I was not as comfortable and seemed to be losing out at the low speed sections of the track. However I have started from the fifth row before and made my way up the field during the race so let's see what happens tomorrow."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "A difficult session for everybody, and the high temperatures, which I'm told will increase tomorrow, will continue to play a significant role. Tire performance will be critical and our Michelins are performing well at the moment. We look forward to an interesting and very hot race tomorrow."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Taking into account that Kimi will start the race from fifth but ahead of Championship leader Michael Schumacher his qualifying result is not too bad, and we will try to achieve the same in the race. Unfortunately David had to qualify in the T-car which affected his chances of achieving a better result. We will only see in tomorrow's race what the grid positions will be worth."


Jarno Trulli (4th, 1:15.679): "It was a pretty busy day, but the result is a good fourth place in qualifying. We tested a lot of things during the different sessions, and the car is well balanced. I am pretty confident that our race pace tomorrow will be competitive."

Fernando Alonso (8th, 1:16.483): "I had a clean lap but, in the end, it wasn't particularly quick. I didn't make any mistakes and I was relatively pleased with the car's handling. However, the lap time just wasn't there: we now have to take a long hard look at the data to understand where the problem is."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Another extremely good lap from Jarno, and a well- deserved fourth place. Fernando had a problem with his car that seriously compromised his ability to qualify well. At the moment we are not sure what it is, but as he is eight kph slower on the straight, and because we have also seen a problem with the braking system, we will start looking there. In terms of the race, we still feel very confident with our tire choice. Of course, it will be on the limit, but that is what racing is all about!"

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Today's results are in line with our expectations, even if we can be a little disappointed with Fernando's position. We continued where we left off yesterday, with a well-managed program. There are no changes expected in weather conditions for tomorrow, and I think we are strong enough in the areas that will be important during the race. Starting from where we are on the grid, we can legitimately hope for a good result tomorrow."


Heinz-Harald Frentzen (14th, 1:17.169): "I am quite happy with my qualifying result. In contrast to yesterday I did a good lap without any mistakes. The first sector especially was good, and overall it was a good lap."

Nick Heidfeld (15th, 1:17.557): "I am not happy with my lap time. The warm-up went pretty well and things looked promising. I had problems finding a good balance this morning, but after trying scrubbed tires in practice we were confident that would help for qualifying. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. This afternoon I had really bad understeer again, particularly in the first corner and the first sector in general, which ruined the handling."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "This is the result that we expected after this morning's practice sessions. The weather forecast for the race tomorrow says that it's going to be very hot again, with an ambient temperature up to 34 degrees Celsius, and track temperature up to 50, so tire performance will undoubtedly play a deciding role."


Giancarlo Fisichella (12th, 1:16.831): "The car today was better than yesterday and I did a very good lap, I honestly did my best. I'm pleased compared to yesterday and I hope to score points tomorrow ? it will be very difficult but we're going to do our best."

Ralph Firman (18th, 1:18.341): "Today was very disappointing. I had a good day yesterday but I couldn't capitalize on it, and ended up with a lot of oversteer in qualifying, although the car had understeer in warm-up. Let's see how we go in the race."

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "Giancarlo drove a very good lap. We used the new spec engines for the first time and it obviously helped, which is a good thing. I'm quite pleased, the balance of the car seemed quite reasonable and I think we've got a good strategy for tomorrow. Ralph's car had a bit of oversteer, although I'm not sure what changed between warm-up and qualifying."


Mark Webber (11th, 1:16.775): "A relatively clean lap but I lost time in the penultimate corner that cost me around three to four tenths. I could have been up there with Alonso and Coulthard but that's one lap qualifying for you. There simply isn't any margin for a mistake and when it does happen, the price to be paid is high. We've done a lot of good preparation in the run-up to this session and it is disappointing not to have got the maximum out of it. On the other hand, if you don't push to the limits, you may as well go home. Today, I pushed but slightly over-stepped the fine-line. Nonetheless, we are running an honest race strategy for tomorrow and we'll endeavour to do our absolute best in the search for any points that the frontrunners leave behind."

Justin Wilson (16th, 1:18.021): "Like Mark, I just pushed way too hard towards the end of the lap to give my lap time a push. I lost a fair bit of time in the last sector but that's where my inexperience with Jaguar and Michelin comes in. While I am not making any excuses, the fact is that I have never driven the car in anger until this weekend and consequently my knowledge of the Michelin tire performance is limited given that I have come from a Bridgestone team in Minardi. Understanding what the car and tires are capable of will take a bit of time but in the meantime, I am very pleased with the way things are going at Jaguar. The car is great to drive and I am certainly looking forward to going racing with it tomorrow."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "While we should have been higher up the order today, we must respect the fact that we all have a very long, gruelling and what looks to be a very hot race ahead of us tomorrow. Our strategy for tomorrow is in good shape and we certainly do not blame our drivers for what was nothing more than commitment in action. Both drivers over-cooked the car and driving to the limit is what they are here to do, albeit sometimes it is easy to over-step the limit. Mark was doing another excellent job until turn 16 where he ran too wide and lost a few tenths. Justin suffered from understeer in the last two corners and then in an effort to make up the lost time, pushed too hard. It is disappointing because it does not reflect the true pace of the car. Mark managed a 16.4sec lap this morning in the Free Practice sessions ? almost three tenths faster than his qualifying effort and that's what we were aiming for this afternoon. Both drivers are some what disappointed with themselves but we'll pick ourselves up and focus on what will be a very tough race tomorrow for all concerned."


Jacques Villeneuve (13th, 1:17.090): "The car is lively and the balance is not bad so I could push hard today. The hardest thing was to get temperature into the tires for one lap because they take around five or six laps to really start working. I lost some time in the last two corners when I picked up a bit of understeer and the tires grained a little. We had the choice of a tire that was better on one lap for qualifying but which we couldn't race well, or a tire that would get better with the race. We chose the latter and I think we'll see the benefit of that tomorrow."

Jenson Button (17th, 1:18.085): "It was a pretty terrible qualifying and very disappointing because the car is strong here. I had too much oversteer throughout the lap and the car was just skating around at the back. Then in the second to last corner I made a big mistake when I got a lot of oversteer and ended up running off the circuit. It's strange because we haven't made any changes from warm-up, when the car was quick and we still had more to come. I think that the track temperature increasing by six degrees probably had a big influence as that can really unsettle the handling. We should have been inside the top 10 today so this has compromised us for sure, but I'm confident that we'll be better in the race. I had a good race at Silverstone against all the odds so I'll have to pull another one out of the bag here tomorrow now."

David Richards, Team Principal: "On the face of it one would assume we're not too happy with today's qualifying positions, however our focus throughout the weekend has been on race set-up at a circuit where overtaking has historically been a strong feature. I'm totally confident that the tire choice and fuel load that determine our strategy, together with the top speed that we demonstrated in qualifying, stand us in very good stead tomorrow."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "The car and engine are working well and we focused on race set-up today. Although we are having difficulty in making the tires work for a single qualifying lap, over a run the car is very consistent and we have good top speeds. Since we made our tire choice for the race rather than qualifying, we were expecting this afternoon to be tough, although we still hoped to have both cars in the top 12. Jacques dropped a couple of tenths towards the end of his lap but we are reasonably happy with his position. Jenson found that his car balance had changed considerably from warm-up and made a big mistake at the end of the lap, which dropped him down the grid. We now have to concentrate on getting the best out of the car in tomorrow's race."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Clearly both drivers were pushing really hard today. As Jenson proved at Silverstone, we can challenge for points from any qualifying position, so I'm looking forward to scoring more points in tomorrow's race."


Jos Verstappen (19th, 1:19.023): "I chose the harder compound tire on offer because this morning we tried both compounds and the softer tire ended up developing blisters. As a result of going with the harder tire, we suffered a slight penalty in terms of our qualifying lap time, but we still managed to go as fast as on the hard tires this afternoon as we did on the softer ones this morning. The car was reasonably well balanced for the qualifying run, and although the grip was good in the first sector of the lap, we were definitely losing grip over the remaining sectors. If we have heat like this tomorrow, then I think the race will be very interesting, bearing in mind the number of spins and incidents we had today. The main thing will be to bring the cars home."

Nicolas Kiesa (20th, 1:19.174): "At the corner just coming into the Mercedes stadium, I was slightly early on the brakes, and that's where I lost most of my time on the qualifying lap. The car was definitely better than me today - I'm just not experienced enough yet with F1 performance to get to the limit of the car in qualifying. On the one hand, I was very conscious that I needed to set a time after yesterday's qualifying problem, and on the other, I wanted to get as near to Jos's time as I could. In the end, I was nearer than I thought I might have been."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "In a day of somewhat mixed fortunes, Nicolas had an off this morning, which prevented him from taking part in the second free practice session. Despite this, he set a very creditable time in qualifying. Considering his lack of time in the car, I think it was a valiant effort. Jos, as usual, completed his full program during the sessions and recorded the 19th fastest time, but with a fuel load that could put him in a good position for tomorrow's race."


Olivier Panis (7th, 1:16.034): "It is good to see that we are continuing our good form with another top ten qualifying position. I am very pleased with my lap and everyone has worked well this weekend. I think we have developed a good stability within the team, which is being reflected in these positive results. This morning, we worked very well to develop the car and to find a good balance. Cristiano also did a good job and with both of us in the top ten things are looking good for the race tomorrow."

Cristiano Da Matta (9th, 1:16.550): "Despite claiming another top ten grid position, I am really not happy with my qualifying lap today. The car definitely had a much better lap time in it, but I lost around half-a-second at the last corner. I was simply pushing a bit too hard and made a mistake. The car felt good and we improved the handling through free practice and again in the warm-up session, so it is frustrating not to be a bit higher up on the grid tomorrow, although we should be in reasonable shape in the race."

Keizo Takahashi, General Manager, Car Design and Development: "Another very encouraging qualifying session for Panasonic Toyota Racing and I am overjoyed that we managed to get two cars in the top ten for the third time this season. Of course our new engine specification played a part in our qualifying results, but I would like to extend our thanks to Michelin for their competitive tires and also to Olivier and Cristiano for a job well done. Tomorrow, we expect a very hot day but we are fully prepared to push hard in the race."

Print Story