JAPANESE GP - FRIDAY - PRACTICE SESSION 2 REPORT

Schumacher tops list in rain soaked day

Michael Schumacher, Japanese GP 2004

Michael Schumacher, Japanese GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive

Ferrari

Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:45.388): "Overall, it was an interesting day running in the rain here at Suzuka. Because of the weather, we could not do as much running as we would have liked, but at least we managed to do a bit of work on the car. Now, we have to wait and see what happens tomorrow with the weather. Already today, it was almost impossible to drive and if conditions get worse, which seems likely, I don't think we could go out on track. If that happens, maybe I'll play football or backgammon?"

Rubens Barrichello (4th, 1:46.874): "It has been a difficult day because, as much as I like driving in the wet, today's conditions have made it almost impossible to do any meaningful work. I was not even pushing on the straights as it was not worth it. I feel sorry for all the Japanese fans who came today. Hopefully, Sunday will be a better day and we and the fans will be able to enjoy ourselves."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "We had two hours of free practice in the worst possible weather. Despite this, we tried to work on the set-up of the F2004 and, from what we could see, the car and Bridgestone tyre package seemed to work well. The forecast for tomorrow is definitely not encouraging and we might have to take a stab in the dark as far as choosing a dry weather tyre, which adds another element of uncertainty. Watching the cars go round in these conditions definitely makes us more anxious than usual: it is clear that visibility for the drivers is virtually zero and they are practically in the dark when it comes to knowing what is going on in front and behind them."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "The conditions were extremely difficult, but the drivers were happy with the cars which seem reasonably well balanced. Apart from having to cope with the partial flooding on the track, the cars and the Bridgestone tyres were very good. And this was proved by the fact that Michael did some very good times despite the bad conditions. So, if the weather stays like this for Sunday, we will not be unhappy. The unknown factor is what will happen tomorrow, if the expected typhoon hits the circuit. There is some speculation that we might not be able to run tomorrow and there will be some rearrangements to Sunday's schedule. If it turns out to be dry on Sunday, it will be a very interesting situation as we would have to guess which tyre and what set-up to run. But the team is strong in unusual situations, so it would be an opportunity as well as a problem."

Williams-BMW

Ralf Schumacher (12th, 1:49.736): "Not much to say due to the amount of water on the track and the large amount of aquaplaning we had today. I would hope we could get some better work in tomorrow, but unfortunately it doesn't look this way at the moment. It would be more sensible not to run at all, tomorrow."

Juan Pablo Montoya (13th, 1:50.060): "I cannot say much about the car really, because I had very little running today and we couldn't really work on anything. But it's the same for everyone. The track was massively wet at first but it wasn't too bad after a few cars had been running. Still, if the rain keeps increasing as it looks like it will, I'll be surprised if we will be running tomorrow. With the prospect of a dry race it will be interesting, very interesting!"

Sam Michael, Technical Director: "As it was a wet day today we did only a couple of short runs to check the car systems and also the balance in case it will be wet in qualifying or in the race. We hope to get some more running tomorrow but it looks like it will be wet then as well. Regardless it is the same for all teams and it should make it an interesting race."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "The warning signs of the typhoon have litterally soaked this first day of practice. If the weather conditions get worse, it will make no sense to run free practice and qualifying tomorrow."

McLaren-Mercedes

Kimi Raikkonen (3rd, 1:46.749): "Obviously very tricky and constantly changing conditions today. The circuit had lots of water on it, which made it very difficult to do any real set-up work. Nevertheless it is a start and at least it's encouraging that I'm the fastest Michelin runner. Now we wait to see how the weather will develop tomorrow and how the predicted typhoon will affect the rest of the weekend's running."

David Coulthard (5th, 1:48.033): "We worked on set-up for wet weather today as there is a good chance that the rainy conditions will remain tomorrow. I had a late start to the first practice session as the team decided to change my clutch as a precaution since some data showed that it might have developed a problem. We didn't want to take that risk in the rain. However it didn't really affect my programme as we gathered enough data in the second session."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Obviously a very difficult session with the rain's intensity varying the levels of aquaplaning that Kimi and David experienced. Both cars ran well and occupy the top two positions for Michelin runners."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Probably one of the wettest Friday's practices that Formula One has seen. The conditions were extremely difficult, and we only went out for a few laps so the times don't mean so much under these circumstances. Nevertheless Kimi and David performed well, and we now have to hope that the weather will be better on Sunday in order to have a proper race."

Renault

Jacques Villeneuve (10th, 1:49.672): "There is no point in talking too much about our work today: the conditions were very poor and the car was aquaplaning a lot, which meant it was actually floating on the track surface and the driver had no control. However, we managed to complete a small part of our programme and given that it was my first time driving this car in the wet, I was pretty pleased. The R24 is quite easy to drive and predictable in these conditions. In terms of driving Suzuka in the wet, there are a few things you have to watch out for. The asphalt is old, meaning that the rubber that has been laid down on the racing line becomes very slippery in the wet and must be avoided. Equally, the cambered corners encourage you to take a wider line as water can collect on the inside. But overall, when the grip is inconsistent, the most important thing to be able to do is adapt quickly."

Fernando Alonso (11th, 1:49.712): "We didn't learn much today: it ended up being a case of just getting used to driving the car again after two weeks. The conditions were very hard, and there was too much water on the track, which meant we were aquaplaning in lots of places. It was the same for everybody, but with bad weather forecast for the rest of the weekend, it didn't really help any of us either! When you are driving an F1 car in the wet, it always feels very light and you don't have a good feeling. At the wheel, the best thing you can do is to follow the wheeltracks of other cars, because that is where the most water has been cleared from, so the grip levels are best. Whatever you do, though, you must remember that the optimum line is changing lap by lap, and react to it."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "When there is as much water on the circuit as we saw today, it is difficult to complete two consecutive laps in a consistent fashion, which makes any comparison nearly impossible. The only real thing we can do is to optimise the electronic control systems, which we managed to do. We are expecting conditions to worsen tomorrow, but Sunday should actually prove to be a mirror image of today, with the weather improving as the day goes on. The small amount of running completed today will therefore be useful, but we will mainly rely on the wet set-ups that we prepare before every race. Everybody was in the same situation today and the conditions certainly look like giving us some interesting conundrums: for example, we will make a dry tyre choice tomorrow without having run either compound this weekend. I think that overall, though, finding the right set-up will require a cunning combination of experience and educated guesswork!"

BAR-Honda

Takuma Sato (8th, 1:49.370): "We could do nothing about the weather today but it meant the conditions were very difficult for everyone. It's frustrating and I feel so sorry for the fans that have been sitting here in the rain all day and have not seen much action from the cars. From a performance point of view, the heavy wet conditions meant that we had some issues with aquaplaning and the car was tricky to control. Despite the weather getting worse, we had to continue running in the second session to get as much information as possible. When you were following another car, you really couldn't see anything in front of you which can be very dangerous. Unfortunately if the weather continues, we will have no chance of qualifying tomorrow and I really hope that on Sunday we will see better weather to allow the race to go ahead."

Anthony Davidson (9th, 1:49.598): "The constant rain made life very difficult for everybody today. We weren't able to work through our planned programme at all and we were limited on laps because most of the time the circuit was undrivable as we were just aquaplaning. It is very disappointing for me not to have achieved any dry running on one of the best tracks in the world and be able to get a real feel for it. I think Jenson and Takuma's equally frustrating start to the weekend is likely to continue through to the race on Sunday."

Jenson Button (20th, 1:53.482): "The first session was very wet and the start of the second session was equally wet, but it was drivable. You wouldn't want to race or test in those conditions, given the choice, as we had quite a bit of aquaplaning but at least we could keep it on the track. As we got further into the second session though it was really wet, the circuit was drenched and it was very dangerous. There was no visibility; you couldn't see the car in front until you were one and a half car lengths behind. It looks like it will be just as bad tomorrow - if not worse - so I would definitely support a move to run qualifying on Sunday morning, when the rain is expected to ease up a little."

David Richards, Team Principal: "I feel really sorry for all the fans who turned up today to see Takuma and the team in action, but unfortunately the atrocious weather prevented us from doing anything more than a few exploratory laps. If that wasn't bad enough, the forecast is for a typhoon to hit Suzuka tomorrow, with wind speeds of up to 100 mph. The good news is that things are looking better for race day on Sunday, and let's hope that we can still put on a great show at our 100th Grand Prix."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "The driving conditions were very difficult today and for much of both sessions it was too wet to run safely. The second session was generally even wetter than the first, with the cars aquaplaning at many points. In the slightly less wet conditions we were able to get some running in on the extreme wet tyres. Given the conditions we were not able to work through our programme but we did get some useful information with tyre pressures. We had no car or engine problems and fortunately our drivers stayed on the track in the tricky conditions. We are confident that our car will be very competitive in the wet but racing in these conditions will be very difficult. The forecast for tomorrow is not good so it may be that we get very little running before the race on Sunday."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "It was a real shame for the fans that running was so limited by the rain. We're just hoping the forecast typhoon will not disrupt the rest of the weekend's schedule too much."

Sauber-Petronas

Giancarlo Fisichella (2nd, 1:46.102): "The whole package - car, engine, Bridgestone tyres - is really good, and I was consistently able to run second all day to Michael. The track conditions were very bad, with several rivers running across the circuit and a lot of standing water all round the lap. It was an easy day to make mistakes, but for me it was also important to be quick and to push. I'm very pleased with the way things went, and I think we are in good shape."

Felipe Massa (No Time): "I spun in this morning's session, and again this afternoon, and both times it was because of aquaplaning. When I went out this afternoon it began raining very heavily at the start of the lap so I had already decided to come back in and was going relatively slowly, and even so I spun at the top of the hill after the esses when the car just got away from me on standing water. An unlucky day for me."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "A Friday under water! Giancarlo is happy and was able to show both his talent and the quality of the car and the Bridgestone tyres. Naturally Felipe is not so happy, after aquaplaning in both sessions and failing to record a lap time."

Jaguar-Cosworth

Mark Webber (15th, 1:50.666): "Today has not been as productive as we would have liked, but the weather conditions have been so bad that we had no choice but to curtail our programme. This circuit can be quite difficult in the rain as there are many rivers that appear on track and this can cause aquaplaning. We did what we could today and I tried to test my new chassis the R5b-06, however given the amount of water on the track we have not really had an opportunity to learn anything and so I will be using my usual race chassis on Sunday. It's frustrating for all of us to have prepared so much for this weekend and then to be limited to so little running on track. The weather forecast is not looking good for tomorrow either so we will just have to make the most of any running that we can."

Christian Klien (17th, 1:52.232): "It's been a really wet day here at Suzuka and we have been badly affected by the rain. The conditions have meant that we have only managed a small amount of running on track and this has not helped me familiarise myself with the layout as much as I would have liked. The track does seem like good fun though and it reminds me of the Spa layout. It seems quite challenging and given the number of rivers running through it at the moment, also quite difficult! There is a typhoon due to hit Suzuka tomorrow so I am not too sure what it going to happen to qualifying, could make it all very interesting!"

Bjorn Wirdheim (No Time): "We have a limited number of wet tyres with us this weekend and I have been trying to help the team today by not running. Usually I am doing the opposite and trying to do as many laps as possible but given the really wet conditions that we are experiencing it is important for Mark and Christian to have as many spare extreme wet-tyres for the race as possible."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "Weather conditions have made testing very difficult for us today and as a result we have completed only a small amount of running. We have also been trying to limit the number of wet tyres we use so that there are enough left over for Sunday's race. As a result Bjorn has done no running today and Mark and Christian have only completed about eleven each. It appears that Typhoon Ma-on is heading our way tomorrow and we are waiting to see if qualifying will go ahead. These are not the sort of conditions that we would have liked but the weather is one of the few things out of our control and we will have to make the most of any running we can between now and Sunday's race."

Toyota

Jarno Trulli (14th, 1:50.386): "It was a difficult debut for me today, although I think we can be pleased to have done some meaningful running in tough conditions. I have never driven the TF104B in the wet, so it was useful to get some experience. On the other hand, I took it comparatively easy today because the conditions were very dangerous and I didn't want to spin or go off the track and damage the car. The positive thing is that we have done some laps and gained some beneficial experience for the rest of the weekend, which at the moment looks like it could be quite tricky with the weather."

Olivier Panis (No Time): "The huge amount of rain made it very difficult today. In the first session, I completed an installation lap and wanted to wait to see what everyone else was doing. When we saw there was no improvement, we opted to stay in the garage, as we would not achieve any decent set-up work in such conditions. It made sense for Jarno to do some running, but not for me because I already know the behaviour of the car quite well in the wet. In the second session, we had the same situation, so we just did a launch and pit stop practice to be sure that everything worked on the electronics side. The track was so wet, I felt that I was driving a boat, rather than an F1 car, but at least we could complete a lap to check that there was nothing wrong."

Ryan Briscoe (No Time): "Due to the restriction of extreme wet weather tyres, I was unable to do any running today. The conditions were simply too bad to even consider going out on intermediate tyres. I am disappointed that I couldn't have the chance to drive at the Suzuka circuit and not to participate in Toyota's home grand prix weekend."

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "On a positive note, Ryan and Olivier enjoyed two troublefree sessions today and Jarno was able to complete some useful laps. I am sure it was disappointing for all the fans that we were unable to carry out much running, but the conditions were simply too dangerous for the drivers. Jarno had never driven our car in the wet before, so it was important for him to put in some laps just to familiarize himself. Ryan didn't go out because we have a limitation on the number of wet weather Michelin tyres we can use, so our priority is to conserve the wet tyres and ensure we have enough for the race cars. Unfortunately, this has negated our programme today, so we have to see how the rest of the weekend unfolds."

Jordan-Ford

Timo Glock (6th, 1:49.277): "It didn't go too badly today given the extremely rainy conditions. It was a bit difficult for me to start with as I don't know the circuit and it's hard to learn it in the rain. But after a few laps it was okay; I found a good rhythm in the wet and the car was not feeling too bad. At the end I was quite happy with both sessions although the rain got so heavy we had to stop before the session finished. The car was quite good in these conditions so I hope we have a wet qualifying and race!"

Nick Heidfeld (7th, 1:49.286): "It was quite a satisfying day today looking at our positions. Obviously it was very difficult for everybody with these weather conditions and the forecast for tomorrow looks even worse. We did a few outings but stopped before the end because it simply got too wet and we would not have been able to assess the changes correctly."

Robert Doornbos (16th, 1:51.007): "I think it went great as it was my first time ever driving a Formula One car in the wet and I had to learn the circuit as well. If I compare how to drive F1 in the rain with F3000, the difference is unbelievable. The Bridgestone tyres gave an amazing amount of grip. I really enjoyed it and found the pace right away. I did a good job and I'm looking forward to more laps in Brazil."

James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "That was one of the wettest practice sessions we have seen in F1 for a long time. Perhaps qualifying at Magny Cours in 1999 was worse but today the rain was very heavy indeed. We thought it might be driest at the start so we went out early in the session and, perhaps by luck, it turned out as we expected. The drivers did a good job today although unfortunately for Robert he wasn't out with his preferred settings when the track was at its best so he wasn't able to maximise his and the car's potential. On a separate note, we have organised the race engineering group a little bit differently for this race to offer our younger engineers an opportunity to get involved in the direct operations and running of the cars. Oliver Knighton (test and third car engineer) is Timo's race engineer this weekend and Peter Bonnington (data and assistant race engineer) ran the third car, driven by Robert Doornbos, today. Dominic Harlow (race engineer, Giorgio Pantano and Timo Glock in Canada and China) is taking a more senior role over the operation."

Minardi-Cosworth

Bas Leinders (18th, 1:52.942): "This was my very first experience of driving in the wet with an F1 car as well as my first time driving on the Suzuka Circuit, and I am very pleased with what I discovered. The car seems to have quite a lot of grip in the wet, and I really enjoy driving in the rain anyway. I'm not at the limit of the car yet - I would need more mileage to arrive at that point - but it has been a good start to building my knowledge of driving in the wet in Formula One."

Gianmaria Bruni (19th, 1:53.194): "It was not a very good day, as I didn't have the possibility to drive enough. I did just one proper run, but the balance in the wet was quite good, as my lap times show. Now we can only see what tomorrow holds."

Zsolt Baumgartner (21st, 1:54.703): "The weather situation today was a bit unfortunate in terms of having an opportunity to learn the track. Generally, the car balance was good, but we were struggling with the huge amount of water on the track. In fact, when I spun during the second session, it had started to rain even harder and the conditions were pretty much impossible."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "In what can only be described as extreme weather conditions, all three Minardi drivers did a very creditable job today, Bas got to grips relatively quickly with the conditions and set the fastest time of the three, while Zsolt had a minor ?off' at the point when the rain was falling at its heaviest and the level of standing water had increased tremendously. In fact, several cars spun off at turn six, which brought a premature end to the afternoon session. With the forecast calling for more heavy weather tomorrow, we could be in for a very interesting race on Sunday."

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