OCTOBER 23, 2004
BRAZILIAN GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING REPORT
Barrichello takes pole (Updated)
"How did our cars do in qualifying?" said Eddie Jordan on his mobile phone on Saturday afternoon. He did not know. The big issue had not been the speed of the yellow cars but rather saving the sport from itself. The battle had, at that point, lasted for about 33 hours but miracles had happened. There had been more meetings then there had been practice sessions but at the end of it all, there had been a result. The sport had recognised that it had problems and was trying to fix them. Formula 1 had admitted to itself that it was suffering from substance abuse and needed to be checked into the Betty Ford Clinic. The drug involved was money. Only the dollar junkies down at Ferrari were stuck fast, the team still pumping money into itself and thinking that it does not have a problem.
"Well," said a wag up in the Media Centre, "I'm not buying a Ferrari if this is how they behave!"
The battleground had been F1's least acceptable facility and if ever a point was made about the politics of the sport, it was when a wild dog got out on the track and caused the red flags to be shown.
This always happens at Silverstone, we all laughed.
Interest in what was going on on the track perked up a bit on Saturday morning when Michael Schumacher hit one of the famous Interlagos bumps and crashed heavily.
"Very simply, I lost the car," he said. "I couldn't control it anymore."
It was a big hit, so big in fact that the engine was damaged and so Michael had to switch cars and accept that he would be down at the back of the grid. But that cleared the way for local hero Rubens Barrichello to get the grandstands dancing and he did a good job to beat Juan Pablo Montoya to pole. The grandstands roared. Oh happy day!
"As I went across the line and saw I was on pole my legs were very numb because it was immense pressure," he said. "If you make a mistake here, they'll probably come down out of the grandstand and kill you. But it is a good pressure. We have a very good car and I'm very serene. It's a good chance of winning the race tomorrow."
Montoya was delighted to be second and hoped that he might score the team's first win of the year on Sunday.
"It's the last race for me at Williams and I really want to thank everybody back at the factory for doing a great job for me in the last four years," he said. "It's going to be exciting."
Third quickest was Kimi Rakkonen.
"The times are so close," he said. "In actually think I could have been on pole position. It was a good lap. The rear end was a bit loose so I might have gone a little quicker. We are going to be strong in the race."
Fourth fastest was a good effort and a big surprise from local hero Felipe Massa in his Sauber.
"That was pretty good!" said Massa. "I even lost a tenth or two so I might even have been on the front row.
The heroes of the day would have been Sauber come what may but later in the afternoon Peter Sauber did an even better job when he signed Paul Stoddart's proposal for change in F1.
"I did it for the sport," said Peter Sauber.
Giancarlo Fisichella was 10th on the grid but reckoned that for the race he would be the man to beat.
"I am confident that I have the right strategy," he said.
BAR's Jenson Button and Takuma Sato were fifth and sixth, a bit of a disappointment given recent races. Button reckoned he had made a mistake but he said that the car would be strong in the race.
Ralf Schumacher was a disappointing seventh but said that he was confident of a good race.
Eighth was Fernando Alonso in the first of the Renaults, who only just managed to outgun his former team mate Jarno Trulli who has really done a good job with Toyota. His replacement at Renault Jacques Villeneuve continued to disappoint with 13th on the grid, with a time which was only four-tenths off Alonso, an indication that things were very tight indeed.
Mark Webber was 11th but an extra half a second would have put him up four places. Webber wanted to give Jaguar a decent result in its last race. And so it went on.
But really, unless you were a Brazilian fan dancing in the grandstand, the important things were not happening on the race track.
Rubens Barrichello (1st, 1:10.646): "It was a great feeling out there today. I have lived here for around 20 years and as I was going out on the track it felt like it did in my karting days. I just went out to try my best and when I saw that I was on pole when I crossed the line, I felt my legs go numb, because it had been very high pressure. I think the crowd would have left their seats and chased me into the garage if I had made a mistake! It was great seeing their reaction on my slowing down lap. I start from the same place as last year, I have a very good car for the race and I am feeling very serene. To be honest, the pressure has gone already. Tonight I will go home and play with my son and sleep in my own bed and it will just seem like a normal day. Last year, I was very much prepared to win and I am equally prepared to win tomorrow. This result means the first big battle of the weekend is won, but tomorrow comes a bigger battle. It will be a long race, physically quite hard and a long battle. One mystery will be the weather. It was a shame for Michael, who had a big impact this morning and had to adapt to the spare car with no other running before qualifying. But I think he can also have a good race tomorrow."
Michael Schumacher (8th*, 1:11.386): "As usual, Ferrari came here to win the race and it is good that Rubens did such a fantastic job in getting his car together and putting together a wonderful lap. He is in the perfect position now. As for my accident in the morning, the car picked up some oversteer and I lost control. Sure the track was bumpy, but then it's been bumpy all weekend, so I am not making excuses. I am a bit disappointed with my qualifying lap that was a bit too slow. Even starting so far back, I will keep trying to have a good race."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "A great qualifying from Rubens, who took pole position for the fourth time this season. For the third time in a row we will start with one car ahead of the field and another much further back. Michael's day was compromised when he went off the track in the closing moments of the fourth free practice session. Because of the damage to the car, the team decided to switch him to the T-car, fitted with a new engine. Michael will therefore have to drop ten places on the grid. Our aims for tomorrow are clear: Rubens will try to win and Michael will attempt to finish as high up the order as possible. Given that the top eleven drivers are all within less than a second of one another, we will see a very close and hard fought race, both for the cars and the drivers, especially with the bumpy nature of the track surface. Another decisive factor will be the weather as the forecast is uncertain. We think we have a very good car-engine-Bridgestone tyre package and we will do all we can to bring a historic year for Ferrari to its best possible conclusion."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "It was a day of totally contrasting fortunes. Rubens has done a great job all weekend so far. He has worked hard and set up the car properly. He did a great lap in qualifying. From my perspective he deserves to win tomorrow. Whether that will happen is another matter. It would be great if he could. Michael made a mistake this morning and with the current format of the races, you pay very heavily for that. It has made it very difficult for him in the race tomorrow and I think he is probably praying for rain. The tyres are performing consistently, but I don't know what conditions we will face tomorrow, as there is a high percentage chance of rain. We have never been concerned in the rain as Bridgestone tyres are excellent in the wet."
Juan Pablo Montoya (2nd, 1:10.850): "It's very nice to be on the front row here, because Interlagos is the place where I nearly won my first F1 race in 2001. Still I am very happy with this result because I think I was not able to beat Rubens anyway. I lost most of the time on my lap in the first sector where you can gain or lose it all and unluckily I did not get it right. I am pleased to give this good result to my team, since it is my last race with them and this is my way to say thank you to WilliamsF1 and BMW for all their hard work. I will do my best tomorrow to give possibly even more. The start will be interesting and we've definitely got a good race car. Hopefully we get it right tomorrow and achieve a happy end to what has been a difficult season for us."
Ralf Schumacher (7th, 1:11.131): "Seventh is not too bad a place to start the race from because I will start from the clean side of the track. I know we have a good race car and a good strategy which makes me confident to be in a position to collect some valuable points for the team tomorrow."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "After making a lot of changes to our cars we managed to get a good race set-up this morning. The set up here is a compromise between the slow infield versus the rest of the track which is fast. Both drivers did a good job in qualifying and it's a good way to finish the partnership with them. With such a tight grid here it will be interesting to see what happens when the various strategies unfold tomorrow."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "As in Suzuka, our team had another strong qualifying session. This time it is Juan Pablo who starts from the front row. Behind the quickest, Barrichello, the lap times are very close together. However, I believe we have a strong position from which to start the race. Regarding engine performance it is nice to see that in all sessions our drivers were always the fastest on the long up-hill section that comprises the third sector."
Kimi Raikkonen (3rd, 1:10.892): "I have been happy with the car from the very beginning of my Brazilian Grand Prix weekend. The times are so close and I actually think we could have been on pole position. It was a good qualifying lap, but the rear was a bit loose at turns one and nine, so I might have lost a little bit of time. As always it's difficult to predict what will happen in the race, but I think we are in with a strong chance of ending the season on a high."
David Coulthard (13th, 1:11.750): "Obviously not the result I had hoped for in my last qualifying session for the team. I had a short moment at turn three and experienced some oversteer in the middle sector, which cost me precious time. A few people got caught out by the changing track conditions today including me. However, I know that my car has got the pace and I am looking forward to a strong race, I always go well here."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "An excellent lap for Kimi. Commiserations to David as the whole team would have loved for him to have a more successful final qualifying. I think we have a strong strategy for tomorrow and are looking forward to the race."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "An exciting qualifying session. Kimi did a strong lap and our strategy for tomorrow's race should see us in good shape. A shame for David to start his last race for the team from 12th; anyway he should be able to come in the points."
Fernando Alonso (9th, 1:11.454): "I am confident we can be more competitive tomorrow than we seemed this afternoon. The car was understeering a bit too much in the slow corners during qualifying but the overall balance was still quite good in spite of this. We will need to wait for the race to see what strategies our competitors have but I think things will be better for us. The R24 was setting constant and competitive times on the long practice runs we did yesterday and today."
Jacques Villeneuve (14th, 1:11.836): "I had a bad lap - it was as simple as that. The car was handling better this morning but then started understeering on the qualifying lap and I couldn't hook things up as I would have liked. Tomorrow's race will be demanding but I am still hoping for a points finish."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Neither driver found the car quite as well balanced as he would have liked on this bumpy circuit and our qualifying positions are a little disappointing. However, it is quite probable that there is a mixture of strategies and we may not know who has chosen what until mid-way through tomorrow's Grand Prix. However, we remain confident in the work we have done so far and feel a strong finish is very achievable."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "A short circuit like Interlagos often makes for a very tight grid, in which a small time difference can represent a large number of positions. Jacques certainly suffered from that today and his cause was not helped by the restricted running time in third practice this morning. Fernando is better placed but is still in the 'dangerous' part of the field where incidents tend to happen, either at the start or the first corner. Having said that, things might seem a little below-par this evening but we remain hopeful of fighting strongly in the race tomorrow afternoon."
Jenson Button (5th, 1:11.092): "Considering the lap, P5 isn't too bad, as I expected to be further back than that. In the final session I made a mistake in the second sector though when I got a bit of oversteer through turn five, which cost me quite a bit of time. Nevertheless, I think we can expect a strong race tomorrow and we'll all be doing our best to end the season on a high note and secure that all-important championship position we've worked so hard for this season."
Takuma Sato (6th, 1:11.120): "The car was a bit twitchy into turns one and two and I was losing grip. I possibly needed a harder out lap to achieve the right temperature for the grip required at the start of the lap, but the rest of the run was quite strong so I am reasonably happy. Sixth place isn't the best result but here we have good overtaking opportunities and I hope our strategy is strong. It will be a tough race but I am very much looking forward to it."
David Richards, Team Principal: "The last qualifying session of the year and another very solid result by both drivers. All eyes will be on the sky tomorrow as we wait to see if the rain arrives prior to the race, which appears to be a distinct possibility. Regardless, it's the end of the season and let's just hope it's a great race for the spectators and TV audience to round off what, for BAR, has been a quite exceptional year."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "After this morning's running we were expecting to qualify a little better than the third row, nevertheless we are confident of racing well tomorrow. Jenson had the more obvious problems in qualifying when he found the car balance had changed too much to oversteer from pre-qualifying. The cars have continued to be very reliable throughout the weekend and although the bumpy circuit will make tomorrow's race hard on the drivers, it will be the consistency of our tyre performance that will determine our performance. As always our target is to finish both cars in the points and to get on the podium."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Both drivers have done a good job to qualify near the front which will allow us to fight for another podium finish. As it is the last race of the season we want to have a strong race to maintain our momentum into the off season."
Felipe Massa (4th, 1:10.922): "I think that was a pretty good lap! But you know, all day I had the confidence to be flat in Turn 11, and then in qualifying the car had a big snap oversteer there and I lost a tenth of a second or so and maybe even a front row position. But so soon after China it is great to repeat that grid result and I am sure I can do a very good race tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to it."
Giancarlo Fisichella (11th, 1:11.571): "It was not too bad for me, to qualify just outside the top 10. Yesterday the car was quick in race trim, and though today it was a little strange in places with some understeer, I am confident that I have the right strategy and can achieve a good result in my last race for a great team."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "It is very important to be able to improve right up until the last race. Congratulations to the team, to Bridgestone and, of course, to both drivers for a very good performance. I am particularly happy for Felipe, who was able to cope with the pressure of racing at home and to deliver a fantastic performance for us and for Brazil. I think we will have an interesting race!"
Mark Webber (12th, 1:11.665): "This morning's practice was slightly shorter than we would have liked but stray dogs on the track is out-with our control and everyone was affected. We made the most of the second session and I was relatively comfortable with the car's set-up going into qualifying. My first qualifying was not ideal as I felt that there was more to be extracted from the car and it needed a bit of fine-tuning. My second session was better and I was pleased with the balance and pace of the car during the lap. I would perhaps have liked to have extracted a bit more from the last corner but it is easy to make a mistake there and lose much time so I did what I could and am overall pleased with my final positioning for tomorrow. I am looking forward to the race tomorrow here at Sao Paolo as it is usually a race packed with action and given that it is the last race of the season it is guaranteed to throw some surprises. Lets see what we can do to finish in the points and reward everyone involved with Jaguar Racing for all their hard work this year."
Christian Klien (16th, 1:12.211): "This is not an easy circuit to master and one that punishes you for the slightest error. I have been working hard with my engineers to find a good balance for the car and I managed this ahead of qualifying and was looking forward to this afternoon. My first session was ok but I needed to extract more from the car but the grip was quite low in the afternoon and this was affecting me. I did what I could to secure a good position on the grid and given our strategy going into tomorrow I am pleased with my final position of fifteenth. I have had a fantastic year with the team and I am will be doing what I can tomorrow to enjoy the race and give both the fans and the team something to cheer about."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "Despite the shorter session this morning we completed our full programme of testing ahead of qualifying. Both of the cars had good balance although we were making changes to keep up with the on-going changes of the track conditions, with increases in temperature and changes to grip levels. Mark's lap was really encouraging and I am pleased with his final position of 11th. Christian also did a good job here and although this is his first time here he has really made the most of his practice sessions and learnt a lot. He was distracted at the end of his lap by the Jordan of Timo Glock who was still on his in-lap and this may have lost him a tenth or two on his time. Overall, we are in a good position for tomorrow's race and we are looking forward to going out and fighting with Toyota to keep our seventh position in the Constructors Championship."
Jarno Trulli (10th, 1:11.483): "I am extremely happy with our performance in qualifying. It was a very good lap and the car was well balanced. I believe that I pushed the car to the absolute limit which makes me particularly satisfied. I am also quite confident for the race because we have been consistent over the long runs in the practice sessions. We have to wait and see what weather conditions we will have in tomorrow's race because slightly hotter temperatures could affect us. That aside, we should be encouraged by this result, especially considering the greatly reduced gap we have to the front running teams."
Ricardo Zonta (15th, 1:11.974): "I was happy with the balance of the car in the morning practice, but we had to make some changes to the car to avoid wearing the floor too much. Unfortunately, the car became very understeery and although we tried to solve the problem, it was too late for the second qualifying session. On my lap, I had a lot of understeer, particularly in the slower corners, where I couldn't improve my lap time. I am disappointed because I had hoped to do a good job in front of all the Brazilian people, but the weekend is far from over. We have to remain positive for the race and try to score points."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "It was a mixed qualifying session. Ricardo struggled with a lot of understeer on his car in both sessions and wasn't able to match his times from this morning, which were set on similar fuel loads. Jarno was happier with the balance and produced an impressive lap to qualify inside the top ten. Given the consistency and pace we have had over the long runs this weekend, we should expect to have a relatively strong race. We need to look to score points tomorrow to improve our position in the championship and I firmly believe that we should be able to do just that."
Nick Heidfeld (17th, 1:12.829): "I'm quite satisfied with my lap and it is good fun to drive here at Interlagos again. I lost some grip on the tyres towards the end of the lap but that's normal, it can happen. The new tarmac here has some good grip which is positive but it's still too bumpy really. Hopefully we will be lucky and have a good race."
Timo Glock (18th, 1:13.502): "It has been a bit better than yesterday. We found more from the car in time for prequalifying, although I made a mistake in last sector. In qualifying I had a good lap without mistakes. I'm on a slightly different strategy to Nick and I think the distance between our times represents that. We had problems yesterday but we've found a better way for the setup now. I'm looking forward to the race and hope it's wet because that's would be the best position for us in terms of chances for points."
James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "It was a great qualifying session overall and for Jordan it's good to get two cars ahead of Michael Schumacher! We compromised the car set-up on the basis of the rain forecast for tomorrow so we are hoping that our forecast is correct thus allowing us to make use of our excellent Bridgestone tyres."
Zsolt Baumgartner (19th, 1:13.550): "Generally, it has been a good day. I was quite competitive compared with my team mate all morning and I was very happy in qualifying that I could be that close to the Jordan with just half-a-tenth of a second between us. I really like the track, which may be why I have performed well here all weekend, and now I hope to have a good race here tomorrow to finish the weekend. I particularly want to thank the team for all their effort. We tried a lot of things on the car and they worked really hard to make all the changes. They pushed really hard, so I did as well, and now I will try to reward them with a good race tomorrow."
Gianmaria Bruni (20th, No Time): "I had a good run in the pre-qualifying session and set the fastest-ever lap for a Minardi around Interlagos. On the 'in' lap, however, I experienced a problem with the car and, as a result, decided not to take part in the qualifying session. Even so, I'm sure tomorrow is going to be a good race and I will try to get the best result I can in the final event of the year."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "This weekend has been a busy one for Minardi and I am pleased with the fact that we were able to exceed last year's pole position time throughout the course of the day. Zsolt put in a solid performance in today's qualifying, while Gimmi will start from the pit lane tomorrow, as he did not record a time. The tyres provided to the team this weekend seem to be working particularly well here at Interlagos, and it is therefore an opportune moment to thank Bridgestone for the support they have given us all season. The weather forecast for tomorrow could prove interesting, as we all remember the fantastic race Minardi had when the team was last here in Sao Paulo."