ITALIAN GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT

Schumacher takes Monza pole

Michael Schumacher, Italian GP 2003

Michael Schumacher, Italian GP 2003 

 Â© The Cahier Archive

How can one quantify the effects of the recent tyre kerfuffle in Formula 1? In all the recent races the Michelin runners have been ahead and yet at Monza, in front of Ferrari's home crowd (or rather a small version of the normal Monza throng) the red cars were right on the pace again. Clearly Ferrari was jolted out of its malaise by the lapping of Michael Schumacher in Hungary and by the subsequent whipping which the team received from the Italian press. It was not good enough, said president Luca di Montezemolo and all of a sudden there was a huge argument over Michelin tyres at the end of which McLaren and Williams had been seriously disrupted.

The whole thing did Ferrari's image no good at all but it seemed to make the cars go faster although when all was said and done at the end of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix it was safe to say that Juan Pablo Montoya should have been on pole but for a tiny mistake at the Variante Ascari and his flying lap.

"I knew then that I had lost pole," he said.

But it was still incredibly close as Montoya crossed the line just 0.051sec slower than Michael Schumacher.

Michael's lap has been vintage Schumacher. Neat, tidy but obviously aggressive and very much on the edge. He had been slower than Rubens Barrichello on Friday but on Saturday Rubens could forget it. He was the next man to run after Michael but at the first chicane he locked up his brakes going in and although the rest of the lap was neat and tidy the damage was done and Rubens knew it.

But was it significant? Was Ferrari really this quick in race trim? Or was Michael gambling on being able to hold back Montoya in the race.

Monza is a place where it is necessary to find the right balance between the horsepower and low drag set up needed on the long straights and the downforce you need in the Lesmos and down at the Parabolica. If you can come out of the Parabolica and the Variante Ascari carrying a little extra speed you can make a big difference to a lap time. Small things translate to big differences. Take off too much wing and your car will hurtle down the straights at an impressive speed but will wallow around the corners. Put too much wing on the car and it will corner like a train but will hit an aerodynamic wall on the two long straights.

On the straights the Ferraris were howling along five kilometres an hour faster than the Williams-BMWs.

"Some people have chosen to go for a better top speed," Montoya shrugged. "Some have chosen downforce. Tomorrow we will see who is right."

But on paper at least Ferrari looked strong in qualifying. But as we have often seen this year speed is not the only issue. Consistency is crucial. Michael Schumacher said that the result was down to the hard work done at Ferrari in recent weeks

"A lot of detailed work went into achieving this goal with aerodynamic and engine improvements and better tyres from Bridgestone," said Michael.

But had the tyre business had any real effect on the Michelin men, except to deprive them of development mileage and add a little more stress to their lives.

Montoya did not seem to think it made any difference.

Nothing was declared illegal (except by some unwise souls at Ferrari) and it was clear that virtually everyone wanted to stop talking about the whole business and stop the rot that it has caused to the image of F1.

The best way to do that was by great performances on the race track and the qualifying session was certainly an exciting one once the big guns came out to play in the final minutes.

The Ferraris were 1-3 with Montoya in the sandwich and one would normally expect to see Ralf Schumacher up there too but by Saturday afternoon Ralf was back home in Austria having given up on Monza and apparently on his World Championship aspirations as well. Ralf was recovered from his testing smash (or so it seemed) but on Saturday night, after a dispiriting day on Friday when he lost his time because he missed a chicane, Ralf felt so bad that he told the team he was pulling out.

"He looked really terrible," said a senior member of the team.

One man's loss in F1 is another man's gain and so Christmas came early for the team's test driver Marc Gene, who has spent the last few years hoping for just such an opportunity. He was woken up on Saturday morning by the team telling him to get himself down to the garage.

"It was the most surprising wake-up call I ever got," he said. "Obviously I am delighted to get a chance. The car is very well balanced."

Gene has thousands of kilometres of testing in the Williams-BMW and so he did not take long to get up to speed although everyone was impressed that he did it so quickly. On his qualifying run he made a couple of small errors but he was satisfied with that.

"I could have gone quicker," he said.

But fifth was good enough and it gave the Spanish media something else to get excited about in the wake of Fernando Alonso's recent excitement in Hungary.

Alonso went from hero to zero on Saturday when he went into the first chicane and spun. It later transpired that it was not his fault but it mattered little. He would start the Italian GP from the back of the grid (or probably from the pitlane so he could have new tyres and a big fuel load). He talked about getting some points but without straightline speed at Monza you are in trouble. Jarno Trulli was sixth on the grid and the team seemed happy enough with that. They could not have realistically hoped for any more.

This meant that behind Montoya and the two Ferraris was Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren-Mercedes in fourth place on the grid. David Coulthard was eighth. It was a strong performance without being exceptional.

"It is worth remembering that we are usually stronger in the races than we are in qualifying," the team indicated and they hoped that tyre degradation would put paid to Schumacher's hopes of glory on Sunday afternoon. The McLaren men seemed to think that they had spotted a balance problem with the Ferrari and his offered them some encouragement for the race.

But then there was also evidence that Bridgestone has improved as the BAR-Hondas were not badly placed with Jenson Button seventh quickest and Jacques Villeneuve 10th on the grid. Both drivers were happy enough and hoped for a reliable race. How much was the performance due to Bridgestone and how much to Honda horsepower? Who can really say?

Toyota horsepower is impressive but this did not really help the team as much as expected although on Friday Cristiano da Matta was fourth quickest with Olivier Panis 10th. On Saturday Panis ended up ninth on the grid with Da Matta 12th and the team was quite disappointed by that. In part it was due to the fact that Panis had had a serious engine failure on Saturday morning, which obviously threw the team's calculations but in part also it was due to a mistake by da Matta. The pair hoped to be able to pick up points on Sunday.

Jaguar Racing had expected to struggle at Monza because the layout of the track did not really suit the cars and Mark Webber seemed a little down during the practice days.

"It is going to be rough for us in the race," he said. "The car always qualifies better than it races."

He was happy with his qualifying lap, which landed him 11th place on the grid, but he feared that in the race the lack of top speed would see him pushed further back down the order.

Justin Wilson was frustrated because technical problems and lack of running mean that he is still struggling to build his experience and get the most from the car.

"I just want to finish a race," he said.

In spite of the good showing from Ferrari and from BAT the other Bridgestone runners were still struggling with Jordan being able to get Giancarlo Fisichella to only 13th on the grid. Things have been so bad of late that Fizzy was happy with that.

With Ralph Firman on the bench as a result of his Budapest shunt, the job of second Jordan driver went to the Hungarian with a cheque. Zsolt Baumgartner did what was expected of him and said all the right things. he is never going to be a Fisichella but he did a good solid job.

It was a very disappointing Saturday for Peter Sauber and the best he could say of the performance of his team was that it was "rather modest". Fourteenth and 16th on the grid is hardly World Championship winning stuff. The drivers were disappointed and talked about brakes.

The two Minardis were where one expects to find them with Jos Verstappen 17th and Nicolas Kiesa 19th. The Dane had a very wild moment exiting the Variante Ascari but somehow managed to hold on to the car. Without that he might have beaten Baumgartner.

POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE - SEPTEMBER 13, 2003

1. Michael SCHUMACHER (FERRARI), 1m20.963s
2. Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), 1m21.014s (+ 0.051s)
3. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1m21.242s (+ 0.279s)

TV UNILATERALS

Q: Michael, that is your fifth pole of the year, your first since Austria in May. Welcome back.

Michael SCHUMACHER: Yeah, thank you. It was a while that I haven't been around in this press conference but I think it was the right time to be back.

Q: It has been a difficult few months I would guess, particularly in the build-up to this race. Can you talk us through that and your expectations coming into the Italian Grand Prix?

Schumacher: Basically the nature of the sport is that sometimes you have your ups and sometimes you have your downs. In the last two races we were a bit unlucky and we weren't quite competitive and thanks to the great effort of everybody in the team, in Bridgestone, everybody around, it has brought us back into a position where I think we deserve to be. Everyone is doing such a fantastic job that it is a great relief now to have both cars in the first three and being competitive from the test until this weekend. It is quite nice to be back in the final stage of the championship, obviously, imagining where we have been before and knowing where we are now. It gives us a bit of a relief.

Q: Juan Pablo, it is the first time this year you have been out on the track last for qualifying and it looked through the first two sectors as if you had the pole there.

Juan Pablo MONTOYA: Yeah, it looked pretty good but I went into Ascari and I just got too much understeer going in. We are running a full race set-up, everybody is, but I just lost the front going in and I lost a lot of time there. This morning I went quicker than I went just now. It shows we have got the car to compete tomorrow. I think we are in a very good position for tomorrow and it is going to be quite interesting. The Williams team and BMW have done a fantastic job and we are still right there.

Q: We saw in Hungary a big difference between the clean and dirty sides of the grid. What is it like here at Monza?

Montoya: Oh, hopefully it is not that bad. If we get a good start we are on the inside into turn one so it is going to be quite an interesting race.

Q: And an interesting turn one - there is a very tight chicane there.

Montoya: Yeah, you know, just take it as it comes.

Q: Rubens, we didn't actually see the first part of your lap. What happened there?

Rubens BARRICHELLO: Yeah, a minor mistake going into turn one and I lost the speed coming into two, which is a shame because the speed was there and the car was good as it was always in Monza for testing and the race. I lost out basically on sector one because the other two were pretty good. But it is a pleasure to be here in front of the Tifosi and have the two Ferraris on the first two rows. Tomorrow is going to be a hell of a race.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Michael, well done. As you were saying it has been a little while since you sat in the middle seat in this press conference. You mentioned a lot of people had made a huge effort. What has physically changed and what has made the big difference?

Schumacher: Basically everybody in the factory just put a lot of effort into every sort of detail. Probably the aerodynamic department and the engine department had the most margin to improve - and did so - because mechanically it is more difficult to do something. In those other two areas we have just done a fantastic job. Of course, Bridgestone really has given us a very good tire, not that it hasn't been good before, but it altogether just suits the situation much better.

Q: After testing you thought you could be on pole position, at least on the front row, but Juan Pablo Montoya was up just a little bit on you until the final sector. Were you a bit worried there?

Schumacher: I knew it would be a very tight situation and I mean, well, honestly, this little bit of difference shows that the situation is very equal.

Q: What about the race itself? It's all going to be about straight-line speed?

Schumacher: No, you have to do some corners as well! At the end of the day you have to have the right set-up, the consistent set-up, to do all these lap-times consistently and that is what we have worked altogether for to achieve to the best we can and lets see who has done the job right.

Q: I did not see Rubens' straight-line speed but I think yours was about five kilometers per hour quicker than everybody else's.

Schumacher: We were the same straight-line speed, Rubens and myself , but we were five clicks quicker to Juan, yeah.

Q: So that is quite encouraging for the race, presumably.

Schumacher: Well it is certainly not a problem, yep.

Q: Looking at the grid, there is obviously just one Williams driver up there with you. Kimi was fourth, but you must be fairly pleased that the McLarens aren't that close at the moment?

Schumacher: It is probably a little bit easier if you just have to fight one very close rather than two, sometimes it may even help you, so it depends the situation. But I am not pleased for anyone doing a lesser job - that is not my attitude.

Q: Juan Pablo, you were well up until the final sector but then you had some understeer, presumably in the Parabolica.

Montoya: No, no, no. It was in Ascari. I went into Ascari and got out of the first curve and I was wide already. I knew it was completely over through there, so I lost a couple of tenths through there from what I have normally been able to do. You know, it's good. I think we have got a really good car, good strategy for tomorrow. This is a track we knew would probably be one of the closest with Ferrari towards the end of the year. It is a bit like the way it was before in the previous years where every time we came to Monza we were quicker but in the other tracks we were not. I think we should be pretty good in the last few races.

Q: You have had a team-mate change during the weekend. Does that make any difference to you?

Montoya: No. Not really. I was trying to help him a little bit, the things I could, you know, little details and things, and I think he did a really good job and I think everyone was surprised. He was the first guy out today and even like that he put in a really good lap time. He probably could have been a lot closer to me if he had been in a different position.

Q: Are you worried about that straight-line speed, five clicks difference?

Montoya: Not really. It is one or the other. You either pick the speed or you pick the downforce. We will see tomorrow afternoon whether we made the right decision.

Q: Rubens, you sounded a little disappointed about third place.

Barrichello: Well, in a way, because it has been quite good all week and yesterday by a little bit I almost got the first place. This morning the car didn't feel very good but in the warm-up it felt good again so I had all the chances. Unfortunately we did change the brakes a little bit and I don't know if they were up to temperature or not when I first went to turn one. I lost the time there because it did slow down a little bit too much and then I locked the fronts and lost a bit of time. The time lost is all there because you can see that sector two and sector three we were very well matched. So I am a little bit disappointed not to be on pole position but I am still quite hopeful because it is going to be a very long race tomorrow.

Q: Exactly, and what are your feelings for the race, especially with your pal Juan Pablo just ahead of you.

Barrichello: Well, it's nice that I am in between the guys who are on the top of the list in terms of the championship and we will have to see tomorrow. The race is quite open, I did a lot of work last week on the car in order to have the right set-up for the race, saving tires, brakes, everything I could, and still have the straight-line speed. So I am very happy with it, we have to see how hot it is and how much we have.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: Michael, what is your opinion about your brother's problems? Have you spoken to him this morning?

Schumacher: Nope. I didn't have the chance to speak about this because he left very early this morning. I just got the information... I heard last night already that he didn't feel well and I think it is the absolute correct decision for him to do what he is doing because an accident as he has had needs certainly time to recover from. I think that is the most reasonable decision he could have done.

Q: Were you surprised - because he seemed to be in really good shape?

Schumacher: Yeah, that shows how tough Formula One is and how different Formula One is because we were out for a soccer game on Thursday night and he was feeling well and you wouldn't have expected anything. But then going in a Formula One car is certainly another story. It is a lot higher frequency and it is a completely different effort and obviously that didn't suit him and he couldn't take that, which is very understandable. I have some opinions from doctors and I have obviously been through other things in the past so I understand the situation.

Q: Juan, do you feel a bit penalized that Ralf is not here and cannot help you today and put himself in the middle of the contention between you and Ferrari?

Montoya: You have got to think that Ralf was still in the championship, you couldn't really count him out. If for some reason any of us would DNF that is a position Ralf could take and he would be right back in it. If two of us would crash he could be in a really good position in the championship. I wasn't looking at Ralf as a guy, at this point, to help me with the championship. I have got to do it myself. I think having Marc here has been good for the championship, especially for the team. He did a really good job, he did a lot of long runs last week, so the main goal for Mark is to score some good points. We are still leading the constructors' championship and I am a point down on Michael so tomorrow we have got to do the best we can to try to keep that lead.

Q: Juan, how much do you think that having a new front tire affected the lap time you were able to set?

Montoya: Not a lot really. I am pretty happy. I think Michelin did a fantastic job with it and hopefully we can beat them with that. And it would be even probably more special.

Q: Michael, do you consider that during this summer Ferrari suffered more than other teams from the test ban?

Schumacher: I wouldn't think so, no. There are just simply periods where the development phases of different teams may show up or don't show up and we simply have obviously not developed our performance enough before the summer break. I don't think we had anything more available to test, actually, during the break. It needed time to develop all those things and actually the summer break gives the opportunity to do this, where you sit at home and everyone has the freedom to look at a lot more different things than if you are doing the racing business and testing business.

Q: Michael, at the last three Grands Prix you were behind Rubens in qualifying and you are not used to that. How do you explain it happening three times in a row?

Schumacher: There are many reasons. The first one is that Rubens is doing a very good job. He has got along with the car much better and it just suits him and he really puts it down to the point. I have not been so successful in that respect and we have had a couple of little issues of setting the car on top. So altogether with the tight lap times we have had in those races that puts you where I ended up.

Q: Michael, after Hungary your president said it was a performance that should never be seen again from Ferrari. So, you come here in Italy in front of your home crowd: Did you feel the pressure and how did that affect you today or may affect you tomorrow?

Schumacher: The point is that when you have disappointing results you just really need to sit seriously together and think what have you done wrong? Where do you have to improve? The president is obviously very helpful in that in order to get us focussed to the right point. He obviously pinpoints the weakness from his point of view and you put the focus to this. But I think there is no sort of extra pressure on us that is unusual. We always have a certain pressure. We have been winning the championship for constructors and drivers the last three years and four years constructors, so our target is very clear and the sort of job we have done in the last two races is not acceptable, for no-one. So there is no extra pressure, especially with the result now. Everyone knows the job we have done proved to be right and we can go on and concentrate on racing.


Ferrari

Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:20.963): "It is a while since I have been on pole, but I guess this is the right time to do it. It is the nature of this sport that you go through ups and downs and in the last two races, we have been a bit unlucky and were not very competitive. Now, we have turned this situation around thanks to the hard work of everyone in the team and at the factory. Our president has helped us to focus on the problems we experienced in the last two races, but we have not been put under any extra pressure here. We have made improvements to all areas of the car, while Bridgestone has given us a very good tire.For the race, it will depend on who has the most consistent performance package over the distance. Tomorrow we will see who has got it right."

Rubens Barrichello (3rd, 1:21.242): "It is a pleasure to be here with two Ferraris on the front two rows, in front of our tifosi. This morning, I was not so happy with the car, but it was good in the warm-up. Then we did some work on the brakes and maybe they were not up to temperature on my run. I think this was the reason why I locked up the fronts. This meant I made a minor mistake in Turn 1 and lost speed in Turn 2. It is a shame as the car was good and the last two sectors were fine. I am hopeful of doing well tomorrow, as last week I did a lot of work to ensure the car is consistent over a race distance while still having good speed. It is going to be a long race."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was a great qualifying session with very exciting moments, given that it is all decided on just a single lap. Having Michael on pole and Rubens in third place is heartwarming, both for us and for our tifosi. Everything went well today; the car, the engine, the team, the drivers and the support from our technical partners, especially Bridgestone and shell. However, this is just one step in a crucial weekend. Tomorrow we have another 53steps to tackle before crossing the finish line at the end of a race which will play a key role in the final outcome of the season, given that there is everything to play for in just three Grands Prix."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "We must not get carried away, but this result is a great boost for the whole team. Both our drivers are on the clean side of the track, which could help us compete for good positions at the start. This result is a credit to everyone and a reward for all their hard work. We have been a bit under pressure over the last few weeks and this pole is fantastic for Ferrari and for Bridgestone. We have a great package at our disposal. There is no particular area in which we have improved since the last race: it down to all the work we have done with our technical partners."

Williams-BMW

Juan Pablo Montoya (2nd, 1:21.014): "I had a pretty good lap and saw the first two sector times o the dash that confirmed I was quickest. But then I had quite a lot of understeer, and I made a small mistake at Ascari when I went too wide, but I could not afford to be conservative. I believe we have a very good car and strong tires for the race tomorrow even if I am starting from the dirty side of the track. Marc did an amazing job especially as he started first, and the track improved a lot during the session. I am looking forward to the race."

Marc Gene (5th, 1:21.834): "I thought I was still dreaming this morning when I was woken by a surprising call telling me that I was standing in for Ralf. I was fortunate to test on this track last week. It is also beneficial that besides my job of test driver, I have been busy racing in other series and I therefore have plenty of race practice. I hope I can support the team here in their battle for the Championship and I am sure that Ralf will be okay for the next race. However, my qualifying lap wasn't the best ever as I made a couple of mistakes in the first and second chicanes, but my best qualifying in F1 so far was 15th on the grid."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "It was a good qualifying session for the team. Juan produced a good lap, despite a little mistake in Ascari, which cost him pole position and he is well placed for the race tomorrow. Marc did a fantastic job today after jumping into the car at short notice."

Gerhard Berger, BMW Motorsport Director: "It was the anticipated close dual between Ferrari and ourselves, and this will continue in the race. Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo are separated by just a fraction and Kimi Raikkonen is close behind ready to pounce. I am curious to know what fuel level each driver was carrying. Every test driver hopes to get the chance to compete in a race, even if on very short notice such as Marc's call-up this morning. Now is his chance to use this opportunity and he made an excellent job of it in qualifying."

McLaren-Mercedes

Kimi Raikkonen (4th, 1:21.466): "A pretty good qualifying lap. 1:21.466 is the best time we have done so far this weekend, and the gap to the front is less than before, so I'm very pleased. Of course we would like to be on the front row, but everything is possible from the second line. I think we will be more competitive in the race as the car is working well, and we have a good strategy, so we will see what happens tomorrow ? I'm sure it will be a great race."

David Coulthard (8th, 1:22.471): "A reasonable lap where I set almost the same time as in the warm up. I was a bit cautious and there was no drama. I expected the track to get faster and faster as the session went on and it did. However I hope for a good start and with our strategy we should be able to maximize the situation in the race tomorrow."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Hopefully our race strategy will further demonstrate our competitiveness this weekend. It should be an exciting race."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A very good lap by Kimi. The fact that the all three title contenders are placed on the first two rows of the grid is a good basis for a great race."

Renault

Jarno Trulli (6th, 1:21.944): "It was a good lap and I am happy with the result, particularly here at my home race. Having said that, I think I could have gone a little faster: the car had the potential to be a bit quicker. I have got a good balance, and the new engine spec ran well: from the driver's seat, you can feel the difference. I am confident we can score points tomorrow."

Fernando Alonso (20th, 1:40.405): "There's not much to say really. I went into the first chicane as normal, but the car spun on the exit because the traction control was not working. As you would expect, I am disappointed, but tomorrow is another day. We know it is possible to score points starting from the back, so it's not over yet."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "A great effort from Jarno, which has given us a better grid position than expected. The new Michelin tires are performing very well in race trim, and this strong starting position gives us confidence for tomorrow. Fernando, on the other hand, was extremely unlucky. It appears there was a major electrical failure on his car as he started the timed lap, which effectively knocked out all the control systems. Without warning that this had happened, he lost control of the car as he exited the first chicane."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Mixed feelings for the team after qualifying. Jarno's performance has put us in a competitive position for the race, although Fernando unfortunately suffered an incident which will make things a little more complicated for him. Overall, I think we can note that our level of performance in race trim is better than we were able to show in Friday qualifying, and that at least one of our drivers can fight for points tomorrow."

Sauber-Petronas

Heinz-Harald Frentzen (14th, 1:23.216): "I had problems with the tires and couldn't brake as heavily as I wanted, and though my first two sectors were good I lost time with oversteer in the Parabolica. It's a shame we weren't able to make optimal use of our new aerodynamic package due to balance problems, because it was very promising in last week's test here."

Nick Heidfeld (16th, 1:23.803): "Already in the practice sessions this morning I was struggling with poor balance on the car and in addition to this mine had less top speed compared to Heinz-Harald's. Then during the pre-qualifying warm-up I experienced difficulties bringing the brakes up to optimum temperature so I opted to be a little cautious under braking during my qualifying lap. It then transpired that they worked fine and that I could have been more aggressive, which was frustrating."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "We prepared ourselves for Monza with great intensity, worked hard and invested a lot. Taking all this into account it is disappointing that this afternoon's results are rather modest."

Jordan-Ford

Giancarlo Fisichella (13th, 1:22.992): "It was a good lap and the car is better than it was yesterday. I hope to get to the end tomorrow because I haven't finished the last few races. It's going to be difficult to score points but it's my home Grand Prix and I'm giving it my best as always."

Zsolt Baumgartner (18th, 1:25.881): "I think qualifying was okay. I hope that tomorrow I can get in front of Verstappen and it's my goal to finish the race. In Hungary I couldn't do that, so I'm really looking forward to this additional chance to race in a Grand Prix."

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "Let's wait and see what unfolds tomorrow!"

Jaguar-Cosworth

Mark Webber (11th, 1:22.754): "I am pretty happy with that lap. I do not think there was much more time left to extract from the car and it will be very interesting to see what happens in the race tomorrow. Monza has been a tough build- up for us and we are certainly not as quick here compared to some other circuits we have raced at this year. We are, however, learning all the time and trying to maintain the upward trend. Our problem here has been compounded a little by how competitive we were in Budapest. The car and tire combination was strong and naturally the expectation level goes up but it is extremely hard to be on that kind of pace at every race. We are a little disappointed, yes, but anything can happen tomorrow. The tire war is very close and it will be a tough fight tomorrow throughout the whole field."

Justin Wilson (15th, 1:23.484): "After what was a frustrating day yesterday, today has been much better. The track is certainly better without the strong winds that were evident yesterday and I am pleased with my lap given the strategy I am on for tomorrow?s race. There was quite a bit of grip out there today but I was being careful not to overdo the lap. There is obviously more time in the car but it is very important that I generate the required experience with the team and discover fully the limits of the car. Unlike other circuits where overtaking is tough, the starting position here at Monza is not the be all and end all. Overtaking opportunities are plentiful and given that I have yet to finish a race with Jaguar, my aim is to make it to the end of 51-laps tomorrow."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "A productive day but the pace of the Jaguar R4 around this Monza circuit is not completely to our satisfaction. The team has done an excellent job today in working through a comprehensive program aimed at race preparation. Both drivers also performed well and managed clean laps that were an improvement on their best times from the warm-up session. As always, we have worked hard on our qualifying lap but we are very much looking towards the race distance as it will be tomorrow that the points are up for grabs. We have not suffered from any reliability issues today after what has been a good number of laps between both drivers. A tough race beckons tomorrow and it will be very interesting indeed to see the strategies of our competitors against what we have decided."

BAR-Honda

Jenson Button (7th, 1:22.301): "I'm really happy with seventh. It's been a while since I've done a really good qualifying lap so it feels great and I'm really pleased for the team. It felt like a very smooth lap and that's what you need here. It felt like I hung it all together and it's fantastic to be starting from the fourth row of the grid, which is where we should be. Tomorrow is a crucial opportunity for us. We have a good strategy and can definitely get points, so we'll be pulling out all the stops to take us a step closer to fifth in the championship."

Jacques Villeneuve (10th, 1:22.717): "I'm quite happy with my lap; it was much better than yesterday. I made a small mistake in the second chicane when the brakes reacted differently to how they did during free practice this morning. The car wasn't working well earlier. We had a few problems and we just about got it right for warm-up, then as the temperature went up my car seemed to work better. If it's like this for the race we should be OK for a points-finish."

David Richards, Team Principal: "It's great to have both the cars back in the top ten and to have qualified so well versus our key competitors in the fight for fifth place. Both Jacques and Jenson have the opportunity to score well in the race, and I will certainly feel much more comfortable if we consolidate our championship position. Today's performance is a direct result of all the hard work that Honda and the test team put in last week here at Monza."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "It's good to have both cars qualifying in the top ten once again. After a disappointing session yesterday we had to spend a lot of time last night identifying the sources of the problem, and so made quite a number of changes to the car for today. This morning, Jenson was a lot happier with his car, Jacques rather less so. By warm-up, however, we were happy that we had a good set-up on both cars. We resisted the temptation to make any changes and were rewarded with a very good lap from Jenson and a solid performance from Jacques. We are confident that we have a good set-up and strategy for tomorrow and we'll be aiming for a points finish with both cars."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "That was a pretty good session - both drivers were pushing really hard and it's great to be back in the top ten. We're getting positive feedback on the latest evolution of the engine and things are going well. Our strategy looks okay so we've got a good chance to fight for a few points tomorrow."

Minardi-Cosworth

Jos Verstappen (17th, 1:25.078): "It was an excellent qualifying lap from where I sat - it was a better time than I set in cooler conditions this morning. The car felt good and I was able to push hard. It was definitely one of my better laps this year, so we're still learning. I'm very happy with what we have done today, and hopefully the strong performance will continue tomorrow."

Nicolas Kiesa (19th, 1:26.778): "Coming into Turn 1, the braking power felt good, and as a result, I ended up braking too soon and lost time. It was early in the lap, so I knew I had to push hard to see if I could regain some of the time. I had a good middle sector and then, coming into Ascari, I had the car positioned perfectly for a good exit. So far during the weekend, I have gone through there with 97 or 98 per cent throttle applied in fourth gear, but as it was qualifying and I needed to go for the best possible time, I tried 100 per cent. Unfortunately, on the way out of the corner, the rear stepped out and the car started to slide. I caught it, and didn't lose too much time as a result, but then I was slower down the next straight. Anyway, qualifying is all about taking chances, and I had to take a chance. If it had worked, I would have liked to see the time!"

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "On a weekend when 40 per cent of the field starting tomorrow's race formerly drove for Minardi, I'm pleased with the team's performance. Nicolas undoubtedly had the ?save' of the day at Ascari, and if not for that spectacular moment, would undoubtedly have finished ahead of a few cars. I believe we can build on P17 and P19 in tomorrow's race."

Toyota

Olivier Panis (9th, 1:22.488): "This weekend has been pretty difficult for me, so I am pleased with my qualifying lap today. We had some electronics problems in practice this morning, but everyone has worked well to improve the balance of the car for today's session. We are now in a good direction for the race and starting from ninth, I think we will again be in a position to fight for points tomorrow."

Cristiano Da Matta (12th, 1:22.914): "Not a great qualifying lap for me this afternoon. I made a small mistake at Ascari and probably lost two or three tenths, which was a shame. Even so, the level of our performance today was not as high compared to yesterday's sessions and we need to figure out why. The Italian Grand Prix is a long race and quite tough, particularly in terms of reliability, but I am confident that we can reach the finish and get a good result."

Keizo Takahashi, General Manager, Car Design and Development: "This qualifying result is satisfying for the Panasonic Toyota Racing team. I am pleased with Olivier setting the ninth fastest time, given that he missed one of this morning's free practice session due to electronic problems. Cristiano's car was not as competitive as yesterday, but I think both cars should be in reasonably good shape to challenge for points in the Grand Prix tomorrow."

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