Raikkonen on top

Kimi Raikkonen, Belgian GP 2004

Kimi Raikkonen, Belgian GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive


Michael Schumacher (3rd, 1:45.137): "It was a productive Friday practice session and we seemed to have plenty of time to work through our planned programme without having to hurry. In fact, the red flag in this afternoon's session actually gave us more time to work on our programme. I am quite happy with the balance of the car. Now we must finalise our decision regarding tyre choice and I am looking forward to the rest of the weekend with confidence."

Rubens Barrichello (8th, 1:45.625): "It is good to be racing at Spa once again, as it is such a challenging track which is really enjoyable to drive. This circuit always requires a great deal of work to get the set-up compromise right to suit the mix of different types of corner. To be honest, I feel we still have some work to do in this respect and now we will be studying all the data, prior to making progress tomorrow morning."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It is a pleasure to be back at this circuit, which is probably the most interesting on the current Formula 1 calendar. It is even better being here having already won a sixth consecutive Constructors' title, along with knowing that one of our drivers will win the Drivers' Championship for Ferrari for a fifth time in a row. As usual on a Friday, our work was aimed at the race, as we tried to fine tune the car settings as well as evaluating the two types of tyre at our disposal. At the moment, it is hard to work out the relative strengths of the teams because of the unknown regarding fuel loads and tyre choice of the other teams. I think we will see a very closely contested weekend."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "The circuit has changed a bit since we last had a Belgian Grand Prix. The "Bus Stop" has become a chicane like any other on the championship trail and much of the track has been resurfaced. We still have to find the ideal balance for our car, but I feel that in the second session we put together a pretty encouraging string of laps with performance that was quite good, but above all consistent. The choice of which Bridgestone tyre to use looks pretty clear. Now we have to find the best set-up for the cars and then we should be okay. The weather forecast for tomorrow is not good, but I think the car-engine-Bridgestone tyre package can also be competitive in the wet."


Antonio Pizzonia (7th, 1:45.559): "We had fairly good sessions today and for sure it's good it didn't rain so that we could complete our usual programme for a Friday, i.e. tyre evaluation and set-up preparation for the race. I drove an F1 car here for the first time today and it is quite different. With other cars, there were several corners where I would easily go flat out, but conditions are not the same now, since speed is much higher! I'll get used to it, I am sure, but I need some time. Also, going through Eau Rouge is good, it's quite exciting, as I was expecting. I am sure everyone is taking it flat out. Anyway, there's more to come from the car and a lot more to come from me as well."

Juan Pablo Montoya (10th, 1:45.678): "Not a satisfying day for me because I am not still happy with the balance of my car. It definitely improved a lot from this morning, as the car became much more predictable to drive and more stable at the end of the first session. I hope to have some more dry running tomorrow which will help us to get the car right for qualifying."

Sam Michael, Technical Director: "We have had a reasonable day today. We had no mechanical problems and worked through all of our programme on tyres and brakes. The choice for the tyre compound is going to be difficult. That is what we will have to look at tonight. The rain held off today but it looks like it could be wet tomorrow morning. In any case, it is challenging to find the balance between high speed and low speed set-up here in Spa."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "It is really nice to see the Formula One cars back here on this beautiful circuit. We have had a proper first day of practice, with the usual focus on set-up and tyre evaluation. Both drivers achieved progress in both areas. Antonio has gave a good performance, given it is his first time running in an F1 car here. Engine power is especially required for the Raidillon and Blanchimont sections."


Kimi Raikkonen (1st, 1:44.701): "I feel that it has gone well today, I wasn't completely happy with the car this morning, but the team worked on it, and it was much improved this afternoon. We have completed our tyre evaluation programme, and we are happy with how the tyres are working. However, it is always very difficult to judge how things will go for the rest of the weekend as a lot will depend on the weather, but we feel that the car will perform well on this track."

David Coulthard (6th, 1:45.507): "Not the perfect start for the weekend for me, but the session went without incident for the team, and we managed to achieve all our evaluations. It is great to be back in Spa, and I am looking forward to challenging on the track again tomorrow."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "An uneventful practice session."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "We have found a good basis in today's free practice. We have gathered valuable data considering the fact that it is most likely to rain tomorrow."


Fernando Alonso (9th, 1:45.658): "I have only raced here once before, three years ago, so my aims for today were simple: to select the tyres, and then to get used to the circuit again and build up my confidence. The tyre choice is quite straightforward and although I think we have some more performance to come from the car, overall we are quite quick. I am very confident that we can be competitive for the rest of the weekend. It is all about getting used to the grip levels: working out how late we can brake, which kerbs we can touch and trying different lines to find the best way round the circuit. While you are doing that, you also need to be thinking about improving the balance, because small changes to the car can make a big difference to your lap time. And then, finally, there is the inconsistency of the conditions - something changes every second, and you need to be adapting all the time or correcting the car. As a driver, when you see a wet track, you know it means you will be under a lot of pressure."

Jarno Trulli (16th, 1:46.912): "I had a bad day to be honest. I struggled with the handling of the car - there was very little grip, and that makes the handling inconsistent, switching between oversteer and understeer. If it rains all day tomorrow, it will be tough to improve the car, but we will work hard on the data this evening to try and find what is causing the problem."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Our five-day forecasts have predicted rain, and so in the last week, we have taken this into account with our preparations. We always do basic preparations for wet running at every circuit, but the weather situation means we have spent longer than usual on it in the past week. When we run in the wet, we do not make too many changes to the car, because in actual fact there is very little we can do. Under the current parc ferme rules, you would need to be certain of rain throughout the race in order to make significant alterations to the car set-up, and history has shown that a continuously wet race only occurs about once every ten years. Instead, our main priority is to determine the crossover lap-times when we can change from an extreme weather tyre to a standard wet tyre and from a standard tyre to grooved tyres. These periods of transition are often where wet-dry races can be won or lost as lap-times improve very rapidly on a drying circuit."


Jenson Button (2nd, 1:45.015): "So far, so good. Having all three of our drivers in the top five today is a great start to the weekend. We started out this morning with very low grip, but we've found a way round that and things are going pretty well. It's a circuit I really enjoy and I had missed the challenge of Eau Rouge. Obviously the chicane at the end of the lap is a little different to what we're used to but it's still very exciting because you can outbreak yourself very easily, so you can lose a bit of time there. The car is working well here. Ferrari are looking very strong as usual but we have to compare ourselves to Renault, who are our immediate competitors in the Championship."

Anthony Davidson (4th, 1:45.437): "It's great to be back here at Spa - a circuit I know pretty well from my Formula Ford and Formula 3 days, as well as racing here for Minardi two years ago. I felt very happy with my performance this morning but my session was cut short by an oil leak, so I couldn't finalise my back to back tyre comparison and had to postpone it until the second session. The track was a bit damp to start with and full of marbles, but it cleared up pretty quickly. I personally don't think the changes to the Bus Stop have made a significant difference; it was always the trickiest part of the track to get 100% right and that's still the case. One thing that hasn't changed though is the weather! The rain held off today but I'm sure there will be plenty more to come throughout the rest of the weekend!"

Takuma Sato (5th, 1:45.451): "It is great to be back in Spa again and to see all of our cars finishing in the top five today. We are very happy with the cars' performance as we were quick on the first timed laps, however we need to work on the consistency of the longer runs tomorrow as this is what counts in the race. Luckily we had dry weather today and we had no problems with the laps, so we are happy and looking forward to another strong programme tomorrow."

David Richards, Team Principal: "An extremely encouraging start to the weekend, with all three drivers doing an excellent job. However, the weather at Spa is notoriously fickle, and whilst we have proven how fast we are in the dry, there is a strong possibility that we are going to be tested in wet conditions during tomorrow's Qualifying."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "We are generally pleased with the way our Belgian Grand Prix weekend has started. We have achieved our set programme and have encountered only one problem, which was a change to the T-car engine after Anthony's morning session was cut short by an oil leak. Otherwise we seem to be performing as expected. It's good to be back at Spa and we are looking forward to a positive weekend ahead."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "A fairly routine Friday for us. The car looks to be competitive as all three drivers have been quick at different times during the sessions today. Let's see what the weather brings tomorrow."


Felipe Massa (11th, 1:45.960): "That was very good! I'm happy with the car's balance, especially at high speed when it really inspires a lot of confidence. We are strong here and things look good for the race. Like Giancarlo, I'm feeling very optimistic."

Giancarlo Fisichella (12th, 1:45.978): "I am quite happy with the way things went today. The balance is okay, and we only have to adjust the set-up a little bit more. We are going in the right direction. The car is very consistent on long runs and we are competitive, so I am happy and optimistic."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "After our one-year absence from Spa-Francorchamps we concentrated on tyre choice and long runs for race preparation, and I am pleased with the work that we did and with the result. We are looking strong for the race."


Mark Webber (13th, 1:46.471): "It's a fantastic track here and I am really pleased to be back and behind the wheel of the R5. The session this morning was excellent and I managed to do quite a lot of laps while working through a race set-up and tyre programme. With the threat of rain always an issue here it was important to get as much dry running as possible. As it happened we were actually fortunate and it remained dry all day giving us a really good amount of information on tyres and set-up. I find this track very challenging and I am already keen to get back out tomorrow, one thing is for sure, Sunday's race is going to be interesting."

Bjorn Wirdheim (17th, 1:47.265): "The session went really well for us today and for me to have completed 43 laps in total is fantastic for the team going into tomorrow. The team now has a lot of data on dry running and this will help us in making our tyre choice ahead of qualifying. I love this track and it is really exciting to drive here. The F1 car feels amazing round here and I am pleased with our progress to date. I finished fourth in the time sheets this morning and the car was feeling really good, so I am very happy."

Christian Klien (18th, 1:47.370): "I had a good day today and I was really enjoying being out on track in the R5. The circuit is just amazing and the speed is exhilarating. My first session this morning was very productive as we worked through a full programme of tyre testing and race set-up. I managed a good number of laps in the morning session and then another eight this afternoon. We have some good data going into tomorrow and hopefully we will be able to make a good tyre choice."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "Today has been a good productive day all round for the team. We sent our drivers out this morning with a very comprehensive programme to work through and they not only worked to it but they all finished in the top eight in the time-sheet. Bjorn was focusing today on engine endurance work and tyre performances. We now have lots of tyre information for the weekend that will help us immensely. Both Mark and Christian did some good laps while working on their race analysis and tyre preparation over both sessions. As we expected the track was quite green today but this has improved and will continue to do so. The reliability of the cars today continues to be good, the R5 seems to be well-balanced and I feel that we are well prepared for the weekend. Our focus is now on qualifying and the race on Sunday which given the changeable weather could be exciting."


Olivier Panis (14th, 1:46.528): "I am pleased to back here in Spa-Francorchamps. To go through Eau Rouge flat out is always an emotional experience and the whole circuit is amazing. I think we did a good job today. We compared different tyre compounds and set-ups and we have a good idea what we need to run for Sunday's race. It appears as if the weather will be worse tomorrow, so we had a lot to fit into today's two sessions. We just need to keep working on things overnight. I am sorry for Ryan but he got out without any pain, so that is good news."

Ricardo Zonta (15th, 1:46.902): "It was quite a busy opening day in Spa-Francorchamps. The behaviour of the tyres at this track makes a big difference to the level of performance, so we decided to spend today's two practice sessions working on finding the best Michelin compound for the weekend. We were much more focused on race preparations today because the weather is very uncertain for tomorrow's sessions and we did not want to lose valuable time."

Ryan Briscoe (19th, 1:47.634):

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "An eventful first day for Panasonic Toyota Racing. Most importantly, Ryan is fine following his accident. He was taken to hospital for a precautionary scan on his arm, but everything appears okay. We saw from the data once we got the car back that his car had picked up a tyre puncture, which caused him to spin. It was unfortunate because Ryan had been running particularly well and consistently throughout the day. We had no problems on the other two cars and we were able to make the tyre choice very early. After that, we concentrated on getting a good set-up for the race on Sunday. We are very pleased with the work carried out and we are confident for the weekend. We just have to see what the weather will do."


Nick Heidfeld (21st, 1:48.803): "In terms of reliability it was a pretty trouble-free day apart from one little gearbox oil leak towards the end of the morning session which we solved for the afternoon. As for the car balance it wasn't really very good at the beginning of the day. We managed to improve it a lot but we are still quite far off having a good balance so hopefully I can do some good work with the engineers overnight as I'm sure there is a lot of lap time to be gained."

Timo Glock (22nd, 1:48.817): "It was not so easy for me to learn this circuit because although I drove here two years ago in touring cars, in Formula One there's a big difference so it took the first 10 laps or so before I was completely okay with it. The lack of grip on the track made it a little bit difficult as it was quite cold and we had a few problems getting the tyres and set-up just right. We changed a lot of things before the second practice which made the car much better. My timed laps at the end of the day were affected by traffic but overall I'm happy because I did my work, made no mistakes, and hopefully have been good for the team in the task of finding the right tyre. The track at Spa is really good - I enjoy driving here! Much more than I thought I would in fact, I have to confess before I came here this weekend I expected it would be like other tracks, but when you actually drive a Formula One car here it's totally different. What good fun, especially the fast corners like Eau Rouge and Blanchimont!"

Giorgio Pantano (23rd, 1:48.962): "It's my first time here in F1 so today I had to find confidence with the track in this car. We also worked to find a good set-up for qualifying and the race and although we have worked hard, there is still more to find. Now we are thinking about tomorrow and which steps to take that may help us go a little bit quicker."

James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "It was a normal Friday free practice day with no technical trouble or incident for Jordan, and made more lively by being at Spa. It's a fantastic circuit and seeing the guys out there taking on the challenge of this track was great. As usual we worked hard on our practice homework looking at tyres for the rest of the weekend. The decision will probably be based on what the weather will do on Sunday so we will study the tyre data and weather forecast very carefully."


Zsolt Baumgartner (20th, 1:48.687): "It was a good day for us and I'm happy with the time we set. Straightaway, I think we went in a good direction with the car set-up and the overall balance. We knew that our car could be relatively competitive on a fast circuit like this because the straight-line speed is good. Spa is my favourite track, so I'm very happy that I was able to be quick throughout the day."

Bas Leinders (24th, 1:49.480): "First of all, I would like to thank Paul and the team for the special effort they have made to give me a good-performing car for Spa. I am pleased with the day's work in general, especially this morning. We encountered a problem this afternoon with tyre pressures, and although the situation improved in the end, we lost some set-up time as a result. Overall, though, it has definitely been a constructive day, and it was absolutely a great feeling to take Eau Rouge 'flat' in front of my home crowd."

Gianmaria Bruni (25th, 1:49.742): "I'm not particularly happy with today's performance, which should have been much better. I particularly want to understand what happened in the final run this afternoon, which ought to have been a lot quicker. We'll have a long, hard look at the data and aim to improve tomorrow."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "This has to be one of the best Friday performances for Minardi in many a Grand Prix weekend. I was particularly pleased for Bas at his 'home' Grand Prix, who finished a very credible P21 in the first session, while Zsolt's performance in the second session, which saw him ahead of all three Jordans, as well as his two team mates, was exceptional. All three drivers produced commendably consistent lap times today, and we'd like to extend our thanks to Cosworth, for the fantastic engines, and to Bridgestone, for some great tyres."

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