SEPTEMBER 27, 2003
UNITED STATES GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT
Pulling rabbits out of hats...
On Saturday afternoon, as the F1 teams headed off for Saturday night on the town, the cars locked away in Parc Ferme, flights of Canadian Geese were passing over the speedway. You did not even need to check that they were heading south for the winter. There was a chill in the air which told us that winter is coming and with it the showdown for the Formula 1 World Championship.
Weather had been the major factor in qualifying and it had left us with an unexpected grid for the United States Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen, the man who has been somewhat forgotten in the "Schumacher versus Montoya" World Championship showdown, was on the pole.
"The trick of pulling rabbits out of hats," said a McLaren engineer, "is to do it at the right moment!"
McLaren had done it - against all odds.
Friday had largely been a waste of time unless you were one of the teams that had signed the Heathrow Agreement last year to test on Friday mornings. This two-hour session was dry and the teams that were running gained an advantage over those who sat around waiting. By the time the first official practice sessions began the weather had turned. Rain was falling and it was all pretty horrible. Conditions were constantly changing for the rest of the day before the rain set in for the night. The Friday times were not going to mean that much. Jarno Trulli was quickest for Renault.
"The performance of the Renaults shows that the extra two hours they had this morning was a big advantage," explained McLaren's David Coulthard. "They had a chance to run in the dry and get everything sorted out. We didn't even maximize our braking points."
Saturday would be a day where teams would just have to wing it.
And Mother Nature was not being helpful because during the night Indiana was lashed by storms and the track was given a thorough clean. There was so much water in fact that the circuit was still damp in the morning and the first of the two 45 minute sessions was relatively meaningless. McLaren did not even both to send out the cars.
"There is no point," said a spokesman. "The conditions will be different later and we will only confuse things."
The session gave us the unusual sight of Michael Schumacher in trouble but as usual when Michael gets into trouble things always seem to work in his favour. Schumacher spent the entire first session standing beside the track watching the others running.
"It was a fuel pressure problem," he said, "but I really did not lose out that much because the track was still damp and so the others were not able to gain any big advantage from my problem."
True enough. Lucky, huh?
The problem would be fixed between the sessions but Michael was still going into qualifying on a wing and a prayer, hoping for the best and relying on driving skill and engineering guesswork. It was the same story at McLaren and at Williams. Only Renault seemed to have things in order.
Rubens Barrichello had got more running than Michael and so was the fastest in the morning sessions and he looked like a good bet for pole position but the Renault of Trulli seemed to be the best package until Jarno dropped the ball completely in the final seconds of the pre-qualifying warm-up and smacked into a wall. His timing could not have been worse. He would go into qualifying in a hurriedly-repaired car. And that, we all knew, was going to hurt...
The big surprise in the early part of the qualifying session was the performance of Olivier Panis. The Toyota driver had been quick on Friday but on Saturday morning had had some problems and so the speed of the car had not really been appreciated. He was running seventh on the qualifying line-up and there was a sharp intake of breath when he crossed the line a full second faster than Jacques Villeneuve.
Panis remained at the top of the lists until Raikkonen went for his flying lap in the middle of the session. His had been a lackluster Friday with limited running and more guesswork on settings than a team like McLaren would normally like. Kimi was happy to admit that he was surprised to be on pole but argued that the result was more by judgment than luck.
"A lot of hard work by the engineers enabled me to get a good result," he said.
At that point in the session no-one thought that Raikkonen would end up on pole but Michael Schumacher was next to run and his lap was a real both job.
"I did not have any grip," he explained. " I really don't know why. I was sliding a lot. I made a mistake in the first corner but it did not cost me that much time. I lost most of my time in the second sector."
There were seven cars still to run and Michael was only third quickest behind Raikkonen and Panis. Things did not look good for Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso was the first of the seven to run but he had never looked like a major contender, struggling from the start with handling troubles. he did enough to push Michael back to fourth place but the car was obviously a real handful.
"I had understeer in some corners and oversteer in others," he said.
Next man to step up to the plate was David Coulthard and he made a couple of errors and ended up a tenth of a second slower than Michael Schumacher.
Things were beginning to get tense when Juan Pablo Montoya came out to face the music of the large contingent of Latin American fans at the Speedway. The Colombian corner of the grandstand lit up like a firework and it looked like Montoya would do the same. His first sector time was the quickest yet But in the middle of the lap he encountered oversteer and he faded with his tires. He crossed the line in third place but he was behind Panis.
But what really mattered was that he was ahead of Michael.
The next to go was Ralf Schumacher in his Williams but not much was expected from Ralf because in the morning he had stuck his car into a tire wall and while damage was minimal he had blown the track time available to him and was less than confident in the car. The lap was good enough to beat Alonso and grab fourth but there were still three cars to run.
The important thing for Raikkonen and Montoya was that Michael Schumacher had been pushed another eight metres back on the grid. Now he was sixth.
Mark Webber reckoned that circumstances had played to his advantage on Friday and he was right. The Jaguar was all over the place.
"There was just no grip at all," Webber explained. "We were very conservative but the car was understeering everywhere. We had lost the balance we had had. Normally we are pretty awesome in qualifying but today we were missing something."
Webber would end up in a most unsatisfactory 14th place on the grid.
Next to run was Barrichello and he now looked like a very good bet for pole. Rubens was quickest through the first sector but somewhere along the way Rubens lost the advantage in the middle part of the lap. Barrichello did not really know why but reckoned that the wind might have had something to do with it.
"It was a good lap," he said. "But the car felt different."
Rubens was second to Raikkonen, pushing Panis out to third and Michael Schumacher was back in seventh on the grid.
The only man left to run was Trulli and, as expected, the Renault was not as good as it could have been if Jarno had not thumped the wall.
"The car was not perfect," he admitted. "I could not give it 100%."
In fact the car must have been pretty bad because Trulli ended up 10th on the grid, a very disappointing performance given Renault's obvious pace up to that point.
And so, for the first time in a long time, we had a McLaren on pole position.
"It is going to be a tough race," said team boss Ron Dennis. "This will be a tire race and we must not underestimate Ferrari."
Barrichello was going to be a contender but much would depend on what happened with Panis at the start. If the two Williams-BMWs got stuck behind the Toyota in the early laps of the race they would have no chance of beating Raikkonen and Barrichello.
And the pressure was really on Michael Schumacher to fight back from seventh. A victory in the circumstances did not very likely.
Cristiano da Matta was disappointed to be ninth on the grid but in the circumstances it was a great effort because the Brazilian had jumped into the spare car after the warm up. In the morning he had had a blown engine and the team had installed a new unit. But this was not behaving correctly in the warm-up and it was decided that Cristiano needed to use the spare car.
"You really cannot get used to a car in just one lap," he said. "In the circumstances I cannot be unhappy with ninth."
With five teams filling the top 10 places, the role of being best of the rest went to Jenson Button in his BAR-Honda, the Englishman being slightly faster than Jacques Villeneuve. That had been the result of some high-risk engineering by Jacques and his team who gambled on settings after the warm-up and got it right.
The two Saubers were 13th and 15th and really should have been 13th and 14th if Heinz-Harald Frentzen had not made a mistake at Turn 6. Nick Heidfeld felt that if his tires had not grained at the end of his flying lap he would have beaten Villeneuve.
The two Jaguars were 14th and 16th and that was a disappointment.
Justin Wilson had the same problems as Webber and found that the track conditions had changed so much between the warm-up and qualifying that the car was no longer handling well.
It was not going to be an easy day for Jaguar on Sunday.
Jordan and Minardi were down at the back as usual. Fisichella and Firman shared the ninth row of the grid and the story was the same as ever: no grip.
And Paul Stoddart summed up Minardi's situation with a well-chosen four letter word.
"Basically it's crap," he said.
It had been an exciting enough session and quite interesting but the weather had had too much of an influence.
Stoddart's remark seemed rather apt for the whole qualifying process at Indianapolis.
But it would make for an interesting race.
POLE POSITION PRESS CONFERENCE - 27 SEPTEMBER 2003
1. Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), 1m11.670s
2. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1m11.794s (+ 0.124s)
3. Olivier PANIS (TOYOTA), 1m11.920s (+ 0.250s)
Q: Kimi, that almost came from nowhere. You seemed to have a very quiet, disciplined run into this qualifying session. Did it feel like a pole lap?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: It doesn't matter how it feels as long as it's on the first row in first place. No, we haven't had much running this weekend. There has been bad weather and we only had half an hour yesterday and then one session today. I wasn't very happy with the car at all yesterday and today, but we just got it right for qualifying and had a normal good lap and it was enough.
Q: You're in championship contention, your two main rivals are behind you, talk us through your feelings ahead of the race tomorrow?
Raikkonen: Of course, it's a much better position now than perhaps the last race. But the race is long and I still think we have a good strategy for the race and I'm pretty sure we should have a strong race and we will see what happens tomorrow.
Q: Are you approaching this as just another race weekend?
Raikkonen: Yeah, pretty much, because we don't have much to lose, but I think we have more to win than lose. We just need to do the best we can and hopefully it's enough to win the race.
Q: Rubens, problems with Michael today, but you're on the front row for the sixth time this year.
Rubens BARRICHELLO: Yeah, I was actually hoping for pole. I think the car is good and looked good for the whole time, the whole weekend. On the warm-up, it felt a little bit different due to the wind, but I think everyone felt the same. The times were not as competitive as they were this morning. But, having said that, it was still a good lap. It was a little bit of a compromise on the set-up because in the warm-up the car was really lose everywhere, but the compromise paid off a little bit. The car didn't feel as this morning, but it was still good.
Q: In the context of the championship, you find yourself in a very interesting position now.
Barrichello: I love the challenges, you know. I think they all come to me in a way. It's such a good championship because you would see after the last race that the two main contenders were Montoya and Schumacher and then all of a sudden you see Kimi on pole and the other two guys behind. It is quite open and it's going to be very funny tomorrow.
Q: So what role are you going to play?
Barrichello: Hopefully to win the race, I think that's the first plan right now.
Q: Olivier, I think it's your best dry weather qualifying performance, a great result for Toyota. Did you feel it was going to happen, coming into this race?
Olivier PANIS: Well, I think to be honest that during the whole weekend we have been quite competitive. When I started yesterday morning I was already in the top five and I felt really good with the car. It's been a really tough season for us, but I think we've worked hard every Grand Prix. I mean we've improved the car step-by-step and in the end we look really competitive. Sure, to be here I'm quite happy today because it's a long since I was here and I hope we continue like this.
Q: And you've got championship contenders around you obviously.
Panis: But this doesn't make any sense for me. I don't play anything on the championship. I need to do my best for Toyota and sure I will try to do it tomorrow because we are not too far from BAR and Jaguar to fight for fifth place in the championship which is quite important for us. But for me, definitely tomorrow I will have a different race, but I want to be good.
Q: Kimi, did you think you could be on pole here?
Raikkonen: We knew that the car should be better here than it was in the last race but this whole weekend has been quite difficult, not only for us but for all the teams also, because the weather hasn't been the best and we only got one hour maximum - not even that - dry running. And yesterday and this morning I wasn't very happy with the car but then we seem to have found our way after the warm-up, just some small changes on the car and we were hoping that the car would be better in qualifying. But I think the circuit also improved a lot. So it was a good lap and I'm very happy with it.
Q: Now you can see where your championships rivals are, are you slightly readjusting your sights on the championship?
Raikkonen: No. I haven't even been thinking that we are not in the championship fight any more, because as long as there is even a small chance, and right now it looks better than it did before qualifying, but there's a still a long race to go tomorrow and we just need to do our best and hopefully win the race.
Q: Going back to your quick lap, you were actually beaten by three other drivers in the first sector; did you feel that was your weakest sector?
Raikkonen: I don't think it matters as long as you're quickest in the end. I took it quite easily in one of the corners, because in the morning I got the feeling that it was quite slippery and maybe we lost a little bit of time there.
Q: Rubens, to what extent do you feel you lost running time and did that have an effect on the team?
Barrichello: No, I think the weather played a role a little bit and it was quite windy out there. I don't know to what extent it affected the other cars but it did affect us a little. I think everyone, to be honest, because the times were not as competitive as this morning. I had to gamble a little on set up. I was happy with my set up this morning, but had to gamble a little bit because if it is windy like this tomorrow it might have an impact on the tires that I wanted. I didn't have the quickest car in terms of performance, but I hope it will be a good one in terms of tomorrow's race. Having said that, I am still very happy with the lap.
Q: How much did you change the car after the warm-up and after Michael's run?
Barrichello: After Michael's run, not much. There was only five to ten minutes and there's not much time to change things. I only changed the tires from the warm-up.
Q: When you look at the grid and the championship, how do you see it?
Barrichello: I am just sorry I am not in the battle because it is quite interesting and as I said it is very much alive and if you look at from one side it is quite fantastic to have the public as they are here they are like Brazil and Monza and they shout and they sing and it will be a good race and hopefully a clean one for everyone involved in the championship. I am not treating them as an outsider, I am still there and I have some points, obviously. To do the mathematics, I cannot beat the first place and anything can happen and I am doing my best to win the race.
Q: Olivier, congratulations. You must be very happy?
Panis: Yes, definitely, I am happy for the team and for myself. I think we started the weekend very competitively and we were in top three in the morning. In qualifying, I was unlucky and it started raining and that didn't help. This morning I was competitive again and we tried to improve the car throughout the day. In the warm-up lap, it felt good, but the traction was not right and the grip level was low. We changed some small things and in qualifying I did a very good lap. We need to find a compromise, but I would say we have a good car for tomorrow.
Q: One of your team said at Monza that you weren't good enough. How much has changed since Monza?
Panis: Not much. We have tested a lot between the two Grands Prix to test some different aero kits and then we found one that was really quite good and we used it and it looked like it is okay.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Kimi how much does it add to your advantage that Michael Schumacher is starting significantly behind you and will have to work his way for a while?
Raikkonen: Of course, it will help, but you never know what will happen in the race. It is safer to start from the first two rows in the race than further behind where you can more easily have an accident or things can wrong. But it is a long race and you don't know what the other teams are doing with the pit stops and so we have to wait and see. But it looks quite good now.
Q: Kimi how does this pole feel in comparison to your first at the Nürburbring?
Raikkonen: It is always important to get pole position, but maybe it was more exciting there because it was my first one but this has come at a good time now and it is the best place to start and it is the crucial time in the championship. It was one of our best qualifying sessions.
Q: Olivier, do you think you will use the same strategy as the other teams or a different one?
Panis: Well, I think the strategy is quite clear. I think we are in good shape, but we don't know what everyone else is doing. I have used a different strategy for some Grands Prix before and it is working and I think it is working quite well so I feel quite confident for tomorrow.
Q: Rubens, you and Michael have always done well here - what is it about this course?
Barrichello: Well, I am not really sure. It always seems the Ferrari is a good car here, but I think that when you like a place you tend to do quite well and I like the place.
Q: Kimi, considering there is quite a big difference in the top speeds with McLaren and Ferrari, do you think your top speed will be enough to keep them behind on the straights?
Raikkonen: I don't know. We will see tomorrow.
Q: Can you alter the rear wing?
Raikkonen: I think it is only the front wing we are allowed to adjust anymore. It is always a compromise with the long straight and the twisty infield. We will see tomorrow.
Q: Olivier, when was last time you were on the second row and do you think you have a package to win?
Panis: Well, the last time for me was 1997 in Argentina you know, a long time ago. I am getting old now. But I am quite happy to be here today. I need to be objective. We have improved a lot during the season, but I don't think we have the car to win yet unless something happens on the first corner. My concern for this race is to finish and score points and to beat Jaguar and BAR in the championship. For us, that is a priority. Next time, we will talk more about winning the race.
Q: Rubens, how difficult is the first turn here and how does it compare to other Formula One venues?
Barrichello: If you compare it to Monza, for example, this is like a motorway and there is space to go everywhere. Obviously, there are other places with some escape roads, but here the thing is the tight turn. The way it is done, you can approach it from the inside. Or you can cut across it if you need to, hopefully if anyone has to go across it will not rain anymore because the grass today was quite wet. I would say anything can happen, but it is quite a safe one.
Q: Kimi, is this great for you?
Raikkonen: It seems good, but this year many times what happens in qualifying doesn't say much in the race but I am pretty confident.
Q: Rubens did you watch Michael's lap and can you assess what happened to him in the first couple of turns?
MS: I'm not really sure. I have not spoken to him or seen his data because obviously we have to wait for his car to come back. But it looked like he was quite loose as well as he went off but it didn't affect me in turns of set up and I think my car had a little more control.
Q: Are you surprised neither of the Williams cars made the podium?
Barrichello: Well you never know. This championship is so open. So many times it started and in Malaysia and you never thought Renault would be on pole and all of a sudden they were so to be very honest with you, I was expecting that Montoya and Ralf would be on quicker times, but having said that you never know if they had full tanks so I think it is quite open
Q: Olivier, after all the work that you have done what does this mean for you personally?
Panis: For me, it means a lot. I think I have worked really hard with the team this year and we have gone really far and the work we have done is huge, but the next step is more difficult to close the gap to the best teams. But I am quite happy because we have tried to improve at every Grand Prix and now at the end of the year we continue to improve and we are on the second row and I think that is really quite good for everyone in the Toyota team. And you know where the next Grand Prix is so we will give something very good for the fans in Japan for Toyota, and for me definitely. I am happy to be on second row and to fight with the best guys and have some fun.
Q: Kimi, how much do you have to be aware of where Juan is?
Raikkonen: I will just try to do my own race and get away quick enough to hold them behind me and win the race. During the race, I am not looking at other people; I am just doing my own stuff.
Q: Do you think emotions were a factor today?
Raikkonen: No, I just had a better car today.
Rubens Barrichello (2nd, 1:11.794): "I was hoping for pole position as the car has been good all weekend. My flying lap was a good one, even though the car felt a bit different to the way it did in the warm-up and was loose all the way round. It was quite windy this afternoon, which I am sure affected everyone, so I had to gamble a bit on the car's set-up in the hope that it will be good for tomorrow. So, I did not have the quickest car in terms of its performance this afternoon. I am sorry I am not in the race for the title where the battle is still very much alive. The crowd here is fantastic, just like in Brazil and Monza and hopefully they will see a good clean race. Personally, I love a challenge and I will be trying to win tomorrow."
Michael Schumacher (7th, 1:12.194): "This was a very average qualifying session for me today and naturally, I am not at all satisfied with the way it went. I am not clear what was going on, but the car was sliding too much and I could not find any grip. At least seventh place is on the clean side of the track which is better than being on the dirty inside line and I will be interested to see what strategy the others have adopted for the race. In terms of the championship, my closest rival is only three places ahead of me, so this is not a disaster and so, with Kimi on pole the title race is a bit more open now. The important thing is to understand what went wrong this afternoon. Now we will just have to wait and see what I can do from that position on a track where overtaking is possible. I hope that, by the end of the race, I can give the tifosi something to cheer about."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "We expected a very close fought qualifying and that is what we got, given that the top ten are all within the same second. Rubens did a great lap, rewarded with a place on the first row. Unfortunately, Michael is only in seventh place. Now we have to work out the reasons for this performance. It is clear that, especially in Michael's case, we had hoped for a better result. Tomorrow, we can expect another close fight. Several factors will play their role, including the weather. One thing is certain; we will do our utmost right to the end to try and obtain the best possible result."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director:
Juan Pablo Montoya (4th, 1:11.948): "My first sector was ok but I had quite a bit of oversteer in the second and third sectors and this wasn't ideal, as I lost about three tenths there. We could have done a little bit better but that's what we've got and I am still confident we will have a good race ahead of us. I would really like to please all the South American fans who have come here to support me. I know I have an excellent race car, we've got good power too and this is important. It's interesting to see Kimi up there, instead of Michael: Kimi is always full of surprises!"
Ralf Schumacher (5th, 1:12.078): "The very first part of my lap was very weak, as one can see from my sector-time. Beside this, we had to change the car a lot from the warm-up to qualifying, because of the accident I had in this morning's Free Practice, when I braked too late and went off track into the barriers, as it caused me to lose quite a lot of valuable track time. Still I managed to qualify in a reasonable position so I am fairly happy. I will start tomorrow from the better side of the track so I hope I will have a good start."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "We did not qualify where we would have liked to. The cars were not perfectly balanced in this session. But we are still confident for a strong race tomorrow. I am sure it will be an exciting one with the grid the way it is."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Neither of our drivers had an ideal lap today, and both of them have not been one hundred percent happy with the handling of the cars. We will see what the grid positions four and five are worth when the time comes for the first pit-stops. Apart from race strategy, an important issue will be who will manage to overtake on the oval's straight. If you look at the top speeds, I would say our drivers have pretty good chances to do."
Kimi Raikkonen (1st, 1:11.670): "I'm obviously very pleased for the whole team that we managed to get pole position today. It's quite an important one and the fact that my two Championship contenders are a bit further down can only be good for the battle. I think the session was exciting to watch for the fans around the world, and we want this race to be the same. We haven't done as much running as we would have liked but nevertheless I felt very comfortable in the car during my qualifying lap. I'm looking forward to the action tomorrow and believe we can put in a strong performance, but it's a long race and anything can happen. At least we are starting from the best spot!"
David Coulthard (8th, 1:12.297): "I made a slight mistake when I ran a bit wide at turn four which was caused by a small amount of understeer. At turn eight I experienced some oversteer, but that didn't cost me too much time. Even from the fourth row of the grid everything is possible, and I look forward to tomorrow's race. Congratulations to Kimi on his great lap. Let's hope that it stays like this in the race."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Taking into consideration the limited amount of running that we had as a result of the damp conditions this morning our qualifying went well. Hopefully our race strategy will compliment the excellent pole position achieved by Kimi and also assist David in securing a good result."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A super job from Kimi in the qualifying session, which was exciting until the very last moment and a great effort from our team. We definitely expect a thrilling race."
Fernando Alonso (6th, 1:12.087): "We have improved the car since this morning, and I was happier with the handling than during practice. Nevertheless, it still feels nervous, with understeer in some corners and oversteer in others. Still, I will be starting from a competitive position tomorrow. I know the title contenders are close by me on the grid, but I will be looking to make up positions at the start and drive a normal race. I don't want to disrupt the fight for the title and the surest way of doing that is to finish in front of them."
Jarno Trulli (10th, 1:12.566): "Firstly, I want to thank all the mechanics, who did a fantastic job to get the car ready after my accident in the warm- up. As for the qualifying lap, nothing felt quite right: I made small mistakes all the way round the lap, and I perhaps had some trouble adapting to changing track conditions. It is disappointing to start from so far back, but we have already shown this weekend that our package is very competitive. We have chosen a good strategy and I am intending to drive an attacking race tomorrow."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Fernando and his crew have had to work hard to get the car balanced this weekend and while it is still not perfect, they have made considerable progress, resulting in a competitive sixth place on the grid. Jarno appears to have suffered from his accident during the warm-up, and tenth position is not representative of his pace all weekend. We are pleased with the tire choice we have made and our strategy, and expect to have a competitive, exciting race tomorrow. Finally, a big thank-you to all the mechanics who worked so hard to get Jarno's car out for qualifying."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Compared to our promising performance this morning, I think we have good reason to be disappointed with the overall result. Jarno's position is a reflection of his incident during warm- up, while Fernando's in fact represents a steady increase in performance since the beginning of the weekend. We are starting from further back than we had hoped, but it will be a close fight tomorrow and we know the car is competitive. We may not be able to demonstrate this competitiveness at the very start of the race, but we should certainly see it emerge during what will be a long race, and hopefully it will merit us a strong result."
Nick Heidfeld (13th, 1:13.083): "I'm happier with my lap today than I was with yesterday's in comparable conditions. The car felt better balanced. Unfortunately the tires had begun to grain before the end of my lap, otherwise I could have finished in front of Villeneuve."
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (15th, 1:13.447): "I must confess that this was not one of my best laps. I lost my line a bit in Turn Six and went slightly off track. It was quite slippery, and the incident naturally cost me some time. We are nevertheless within our target, but it is still annoying, of course. We changed the car quite a bit for qualifying, and it is set up well for the race."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Nick is right beside Villeneuve and close behind Button on the grid, and Heinz-Harald is within striking distance of all three, so this bodes well for an exciting start."
Giancarlo Fisichella (17th, 1:13.798): "This morning I had a problem with the gearbox and didnít get enough laps done so the car was not good in terms of set-up today. Grip is poor and the set-up we have chosen is more suited for wet conditions in case tomorrow is wet, which is what Iím hoping for."
Ralph Firman (18th, 1:14.027): "It feels really good to be driving here in Indianapolis after five weeks out of the car and itís quite exciting as there are only two more Grands Prix to go. We have been struggling for the ultimate lap time today but thatís just where we are with the car, we have problems with grip, and weíre struggling with balance and the lower downforce set-up. There is a lot of oversteer on turn-in and understeer through the long corners, itís a bit of everything really. I had a pretty good lap with no mistakes, and did the best I could under the circumstances. Unless it rains I think we might struggle to score any points, but itís been pretty showery the last few days so we may get lucky."
Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "Mixed conditions in the morning meant that the first session was a bit of a waste of time and Giancarlo had a gearbox problem which necessitated a gearbox change so he lost any running time potential. The second session was okay, we got through some work on fuel loads and we went with what we think is the best thing for qualifying. There are no miracles and our pace is where we are relative to the front. Hopefully weíve got a strategy that will keep us in contention and if a couple of points drop our way we will take them and say thank you very much!"
Mark Webber (14th, 1:13.269): "You win some, you lose some and today wasn't our day. We lost a bit of balance and grip going into the qualifying session and it became quite apparent as I came out of turn ten from my out lap. As I came out, the car understeered considerably and I began worrying about what was in store for me today. The brakes going into turn one were fine but the understeer kicked in again and it stayed with me for the whole lap. It was certainly a difficult qualifying session for us and not one that we expected given our pace up until now. We will, however, learn from it, move on and focus upon the job in-hand for tomorrow."
Justin Wilson (16th, 1:13.585): "Mark's words pretty much sum up my disappointing performance too. The track conditions had obviously changed since this morning and no sooner had I entered the in-field section than I began experiencing understeer. The car was quite twitchy in some of the corners and there was little I could do except my best. Tomorrow's race will be tough for us but there is never such a thing as an easy race anyway! It is a shame to be starting so far back at a circuit which we know we could have done a better job at today and given that I haven't yet finished a race distance for Jaguar yet, seeing the chequered flag will mean a lot to me tomorrow."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "We had a solid and productive morning working on tires and race set-up. Both morning sessions were problem-free and the pace going into qualifying was promising - particularly with Mark setting the fastest time in sector two during the second warm-up session. We all felt pretty positive in the build-up to the qualifying hour but we were caught out by the lack of grip. We didn't make any significant changes to the car compared to the morning sessions and one can only assume at this stage that the track temperature went against us. Given that both Honda and Toyota powered teams are ahead of us, we have a very steep mountain ahead of us tomorrow and we will simply have to knuckle down and do the best job we can. The race pace of the car should be competitive and if we can remain reliable, there is always a chance. Not the performance we were expecting but there is a considerable race distance to complete tomorrow at a track that normally carries a high attrition rate."
Jenson Button (11th, 1:12.695): "We finally got on top of the set-up with my car this morning and it was working reasonably well. By the time we got to warm-up, the wind had picked up, the track temperature had increased and like most people I found myself with a different car. It wasn't too bad in qualifying; the balance was there but we're still finding grip hard to come by. I think we'll be quite strong in the race and we'll be fighting for valuable points."
Jacques Villeneuve (12th, 1:13.050): "We've had some trouble with the driveability of the car this weekend, mainly due to lack of grip, and this morning it was very close to being undriveable. It was a little better in warm-up then we made some changes prior to qualifying, which is always a bit of a gamble. It helped the car a lot and finally I had grip. There was still some time left in it because that's the first lap I've done all weekend where the car has been working well. The car will be good for the race but if we had found the set-up much earlier we would be a few tenths quicker than we are now."
David Richards, Team Principal: "The team did an excellent job overnight to overcome a difficult start to our weekend and their efforts paid dividends today with a strong qualifying performance from both cars and fault-free laps from Jacques and Jenson. Starting side-by-side from the middle of the grid tomorrow, and with the possibility of showers during the race, we can expect to see them both fighting hard to deliver a crucial points boost for the team."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "After a difficult day yesterday we decided to make some substantial changes to car set-up overnight and after some further experimentation we finally managed to achieve a much more competitive car. The track temperatures changed considerably during the morning practice and warm-up, forcing us to make some last-minute changes, which worked well. Both drivers qualified well and we look forward to seeing what unfolds in the race tomorrow when we must continue our fight to secure fifth place in the Championship."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Both drivers put in decent laps this afternoon. We're just outside the top ten - the times are really tight and it was a very close session. We're in with a shout tomorrow and I'm sure Jacques and Jenson will be fighting hard to pick up some more points."
Jos Verstappen (19th, 1:15.360): "It felt like we had punctures on the qualifying lap, the way the car was sliding around. I just couldn't do anything with it. As soon as I really began to push, the rear just started sliding away. In the end, it was just about survival, keeping the car on the track and completing the lap. I'm obviously disappointed by how the car felt in qualifying today, and if it's like this for the race, we will have a problem. Hopefully, though, we will find something overnight to improve the situation."
Nicolas Kiesa (20th, 1:15.644): "The track conditions definitely changed between this morning's practice sessions and this afternoon's qualifying run, which meant the car's handling altered noticeably. I was pushing hard and the rear of the car stepped out, losing me probably three tenths of a second, which I then carried with me for the rest of the lap. The remainder of the run wasn't too bad, and the car went well through the slower corners in the second sector. As is often the case, I think we have a better car for the race than for qualifying."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "With the changing track conditions here today, going out first in qualifying was certainly a disadvantage, with both drivers struggling to find an acceptable chassis balance. Should the weather play a part in the race, however, starting from the back of the grid may not be so bad. We look forward to getting both European Minardi entries to the chequered flag in tomorrow's United States Grand Prix."
Olivier Panis (3rd, 1:11.920): "This is a brilliant result for the entire team. I have not started a race on the second row of the grid since the Grand Prix in Argentina back in 1997. I am looking forward to having some fun in the race tomorrow alongside some of the most competitive drivers in the field. We have had a mixed season in terms of results, but it is fabulous to see the rewards of our non-stop efforts. I know that we are not yet in a position to fight for victory, but we have a good car and I expect to pick up a lot of points tomorrow to try and catch BAR-Honda and Jaguar, our nearest rivals in the championship."
Cristiano Da Matta (9th, 1:12.326): "All things considered I think my lap today was okay. Unfortunately, I had to switch to the spare car at the last minute because the engine was overheating during the warm-up session and we didn't want to take any risks. The T-car was set-up for me anyway, but even so you always lose out by some tenths-of-a-second, which is critical when the field is as tight as it is here. For tomorrow's race things should be pretty good; the car has been running strongly all weekend, so I think that if the weather stays dry we should be looking for points."
Ove Andersson, Team Principal: "I am speechless! In only our 32nd race, we have qualified a Toyota on the second row of the grid after Olivier took third place with a really impressive lap. It was a shame that Cristiano had to jump into the T-car, which almost certainly affected his time, but he drove a solid lap to score ninth and another double top ten qualifying result for the team. The atmosphere in the garage during that session was absolutely remarkable and I have to say a big thank you to all the guys for producing such a fantastic result. The cars have looked competitive since first thing yesterday morning and if luck is on our side tomorrow, we should expect to pick up a few points."