FRENCH GP - SATURDAY - TEAM QUOTES
Fernando Alonso (3rd, 1:15.785): "I am pleased with third position, because after Indianapolis I think it is important for me to be among the top cars in qualifying. We knew that Ferrari would be very competitive on a single lap, but I did my maximum today and I am feeling confident for the race. The conditions out there were very hot, and we expect similar temperatures for tomorrow, so we will need to see how the tyre performance evolves - but so far, the Michelins have looked consistent on the longer runs. Qualifying was quite enjoyable today - I had a little battle with Michael in the third part because we both wanted to have a clear track for the fuel burning laps, and it was fun to pass each other. The real business comes tomorrow though. The grip levels will be improving all the way through the race so we need to wait and see how things develop."
Giancarlo Fisichella (7th, 1:16.345): "We have been working with the race in mind all weekend, and I am confident that I have a good race set-up on the car. I had some understeer all around the lap in qualifying that we couldn't get rid of, and that definitely cost me time. But ultimately, the race performance is what counts and I think we are in a strong position with the consistency of our Michelin tyres. I am confident that even from seventh, we can use a good strategy to make up positions and score lots of points. It will be nice to make up some places at the start if I can, but I think things may well unfold in our favour tomorrow."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "The team's target for this afternoon was to get both cars on the front two rows, and we only partially achieved it. However, as is usual with our team, we have not compromised our optimum race strategy for grid position. So far this weekend, the Michelin tyres have withstood the demands of extremely hot track temperatures very well, offering good performance on a single lap and excellent consistency. We are certainly confident that Fernando can have a strong race against Ferrari, and that we can call on some strategic options that will help Giancarlo turn the race to his advantage."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "As always, the qualifying order brings with it several uncertainties in terms of strategy and tyre performance in race conditions. However, a first look at the times suggests that we will be starting the race as challengers rather than clear favourites. Fernando's third position means he is ideally placed to race the two Ferraris, while Giancarlo has more work to do to from seventh position. However, we have prepared thoroughly for the race without any unexpected incidents. The C spec engine is performing well, as our strong position in the speed charts suggests. We now need to wait for the first round of pit-stops to begin tomorrow afternoon in order to understand our true level of competitiveness."
Kimi Raikkonen (6th, 1:16.281): "I am pretty happy with the performance of the car, we could be a little faster and there are a few things that could improve. However, with our Michelin tyre choice I expect a stable race performance, and a podium result is what I am aiming for. Otherwise I had an uneventful qualifying."
Pedro de la Rosa (8th, 1:16.632): "That was quite interesting from my point of view, especially towards the end when it gets very busy on track. I could have been a bit quicker, but I had a lot of traffic coming out of the pit-lane as I started my last lap on fresh tyres, and I lost nearly four tenths on the high speed turn three. With this qualifying system, which is new to me, you can not afford to have the slightest problem to qualify at the top. We made some changes to the car and as a result it is handling a lot better than yesterday, so I am looking forward to the race and hopefully scoring some points for the team."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Not a bad qualifying for us and, as is often the case for everyone we encountered a lot of traffic. The grid positions reflect the tyre competition. This will be an important factor in the race, and we expect that our selected Michelins will enable us to be strong tomorrow."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Our grid positions on the third and fourth row are not ideal, but let's see the strategies tomorrow. Pedro on his debut did a good job for the team. Our speed should be good enough for a podium place."
Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:15.493): "I am very happy! Pole position with Felipe starting alongside me - we cannot ask for more! I have to admit I am a bit surprised at the result, especially in light of the fact we started qualifying without much of a reference point after the problems we had this morning in practice. I want to thank all the mechanics, who did a fantastic job to fix the car. The Bridgestones are performing very well. It's great to have repeated the Indianapolis qualifying result, but now I also want to repeat the race result from there, as it is important to pick up as many points as possible. Our aim for tomorrow is obvious: to win."
Felipe Massa (2nd, 1:15.510): "This morning I had a clutch problem, which the team was able to fix, but only just before the start of qualifying. A big thank you to the mechanics for doing a fantastic job in getting the car ready in time. The car seems to be working well, it is competitive, as are the Bridgestone tyres. I am very happy to be on the front row for the second time in a row, my third this season. For tomorrow, having new tyres in the race will make a big difference so it will be interesting to see who will have that advantage. In practice we were competitive on used tyres and I hope we can maintain a good pace in tomorrow's high temperatures over the long runs so that we can stay in front."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "A fantastic qualifying! Tomorrow on the grid, it will be nice to see two Ferraris on the front row for the third time this season. A big vote of thanks to Bridgestone, who have provided us with exceptional tyres for qualifying. The team did a really excellent job, repairing the cars after the problems we had in the final free practice session. But we are well aware that the only thing that matters for the championships is the race result. Yes, having both cars on the front row means we are in the best possible situation to bring home a good result tomorrow, but we also know what key factors will make the difference: reliability (remember that we will run 70 laps in very high temperatures,) consistent tyre performance, strategy and the way the team handles the pit-stops."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "That was a very exciting qualifying session and it served as an indication of the progress Bridgestone have made on the tyre front. We saw in Indianapolis that we were in a very strong situation which was down to the tyres and that trend has continued here, which is very encouraging. The key tomorrow will be the consistency of the tyres as it will be very hot during the race and it will be vital for the tyres to perform well over the full length of a stint. As for the fire on Michael's car this morning, we think there was a bit of excess fuel in the exhausts and it caught fire. Then we had a problem with the fire extinguisher which meant we did not put out the fire quite as quickly as we should have done. But everything is fine with the car. At the moment, it is hard to judge what strategies our rivals are on in terms of length of stint. Now we will do our calculations based on what we saw in qualifying so that we can try and predict what they might do."
Jarno Trulli (4th, 1:16.036): "In the last few months the team has been working really hard and by consequence we have a good car at the moment. We have been quick all weekend and I'm pleased to be 4th here so thanks to all the Toyota team. It looks like the tyres are very competitive as well so thanks to Bridgestone which is also doing a very good job. The change from 20 minutes to 15 minutes in Q3 doesn't really affect anything for the driver, it just means a bit less time for burning fuel. I made a few mistakes on my fastest lap so I probably could have done better. But we have a strong package and everything has gone well here so far so I just hope for another good race tomorrow."
Ralf Schumacher (5th, 1:16.091): "The whole weekend we have shown that the car has been performing well and up to speed, so it has been a good two days for us. I'm sure that Bridgestone again has the upper hand on the tyre front but as a team we have also done a good job. My sessions went pretty smoothly today. I lost a bit of time on my first lap in Q1 due to traffic but the second lap was clear. Q2 went better and I was able to post the second quickest time. My last lap in Q3 was also pretty pain-free and considering the strategy that we have we can be quite satisfied. We are confident about our race pace so now let's see what we can achieve tomorrow."
Pascal Vasselon, Senior General Manager Chassis: "It's obviously very satisfying to record our best qualifying performance of the season so that was a good day's work. When we introduced the TF106B in Monaco we announced that it would provide the platform for regular aerodynamic upgrades. Since then we have adapted our aero package at every race and now we are reaping the rewards. The whole weekend has actually gone very smoothly so far because our performance has been very consistent in all the practice sessions. So we already knew yesterday that we had a good chance to perform well and this is where we expected to be on the grid. This morning's practice session went well and as usual we stayed on used tyres to assess the race performance. In qualifying we had no major issues with traffic and both drivers put in good laps. We are also very happy with our Bridgestone tyres, which are consistent and also showed this afternoon that they have good first lap pace. So far so good, then, and now we can look forward to what will be an interesting race tomorrow."
Nico Rosberg (9th, 1:18.272): "I am pleased because it was quite a good qualifying for me today, even if my last flying lap wasn't perfect. Even if I had managed a perfect lap, it wouldn't have made a difference anyway because the gap to eighth place is pretty big. Dropping 10 places because we had to change the engine isn't ideal, but I've shown in previous races that I can work my way through the field. Our Bridgestone tyres have proved to work well here and that gives us confidence for tomorrow's race."
Mark Webber (11th, 1:16.129): "We knew it was going to be a pretty close qualifying session and the fact that Nico and I are just on the border of the top ten demonstrates that. I had several good laps but my last qualifying lap was not so awesome. I wasn't quick enough in the last sector so I lost a couple of tenths. No excuses. Let's see how the race goes tomorrow."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "It's a much tighter grid than at the last race. We decided to do an engine change on Nico's car before qualifying, due to us over-revving the engine during previous running. As he will take a 10- place penalty, he was on a different strategy. We had reasonable pace through practice and our target tomorrow is points. Unfortunately, Mark missed out on a place in the top ten by a couple of tenths. We've improved the car since the last Grand Prix, but there's still a way to go. It will be a hot race tomorrow so the cars and tyres will be placed under considerable strain, while it will also be interesting to see what strategies other teams run here. We're looking forward to it and we will be fighting for points."
Simon Corbyn, Cosworth: "Cosworth and WiliamsF1 took the difficult decision to change Nico's engine prior to qualifying. Given the engine's history, the potential risk of compromising tomorrow's race outweighs the grid penalty he will incur. We took the opportunity to install a fresh Series 6 engine for Nico and he used it to good effect in qualifying. Mark also had no engine problems with his Series 6 and was unfortunate to just miss the cut for the final session."
Rubens Barrichello (14th, 1:17.027): "I had a little bit of traffic on section one of my last run but we're just not quick enough. We maybe could have gone a little bit faster but not a lot and unfortunately that was the pace of the car today. We feel that we're missing some grip in the middle of the corner, although actually the balance of the car itself is not so bad. On the long runs we seem to have a good pace so that is something for tomorrow, but we are starting so far back that it will be very tough to get a result from here."
Jenson Button (19th, 1:17.495): "I had my run ruined by traffic today in the first session which is obviously very disappointing. Having said that, the car just wasn't quick enough and we were not on the pace for the quick qualifying lap. It would have been nice to do two new tyre runs in the first session but we didn't have time. It's a shame because this is one of the circuits that I really enjoy but we'll just have to see if we can fight our way through from the back and salvage something from the weekend."
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "This isn't where we expected to be today and that's very frustrating. After this morning's session we were hopeful to be in the top ten. However Jenson was plagued with traffic in Q1 and we just couldn't make the cut with Rubens in Q2. We lacked the pace with both cars to be at the sharp end of the fight today. Nevertheless we will do our best tomorrow and try to come away with some points."
David Coulthard (10th, 1:18.663): "On low fuel, the car was very well-balanced, there just wasn't enough speed in the turns to be competitive with the other guys in the final qualifying session. We didn't run new tyres in the last part, as we weren't expecting to qualify any higher up. The race will be tough balance-wise I think; tyres are a big issue here, track temperature is high and there are a lot of long corners, so the rear tyres are going to drop off quite a bit. We're starting from a pretty good position, so if we keep out of trouble we may score some points."
Christian Klien (13th, 1:16.433): "That was a good qualifying session for the team actually. I was quite happy with my twelfth position in the end. I did every run on a new set of tyres and was going quicker and quicker. I was happy with the car's balance today, we were also on the right tyres so that was definitely an improvement from yesterday. Hopefully we have a chance for a good race tomorrow - I'm quite optimistic."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A solid qualifying performance by both drivers. David did very well to make the last ten for the first time since Monaco and we then elected to take a strategic approach to his final qualifying section. As Rosberg had already picked up an engine penalty, which dropped him ten places, we'll start from ninth and twelfth on the grid tomorrow, our aim is to try and gain some points."
Nick Heidfeld (12th, 1:16.294): "The balance of the car was quite good. It often happens that we look very good on Saturday morning, but others make bigger improvements for qualifying in the afternoon. Having said that, my personal expectations were not as high as you would expect."
Jacques Villeneuve (18th, 1:17.304): "This was very disappointing because the car is quick. After this morning we decided to go aggressively with our tyres for qualifying. We took a risk with the choice but I had traffic on both my laps. Starting from the back could really kill our race, but we will still keep working until the end as you never know what happens."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Our qualifying result was influenced by two factors. On the one hand our car here in qualifying was not as strong as in the previous races. Jacques Villeneuve, on the other hand, did not manage to get the lap time he needed for a good position. For the race this means our starting positions are particularly bad as overtaking here is difficult. Nevertheless, for Nick the clear target is to drive into the points. I hope with a good start, as in the recent races, he can lay the foundations for this."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis: "The biggest disappointment is we didn't get into the second part of qualifying with Jacques. Nick had some traffic on his last lap, which probably cost the time needed to be in the top ten. Because another driver has to drop back ten places, Nick will start from 11th on the grid. Thanks to our ability to get away from the start we hope to make up positions at the beginning and collect some points."
Christijan Albers (16th, 1:17.105): "I think we had a reasonable day. Reasonable, but not perfect - perfect would be pole position! Still, I think we are in good shape for the race and should be quite competitive. Bridgestone made a good tyre for us here and I think we chose the right compound, so we should be pretty strong. Maximum attack!"
Tiago Monteiro (20th, 1:17.589): "This has been one of the toughest weekends for me so far. In addition to some technical issues, I've been having serious problems setting my car up the way I like and balancing it to my taste, which is a shame, because I really like this track. I don't understand why we can't get around it, but that's how it goes sometimes - that's racing. I'm also disappointed because I think I could have gone faster in qualifying. On my first flying lap, I was blocked by Coulthard, which is really surprising because he's always the first one to complain about it when it happens to him, so I wasn't expecting that kind of driving from him. On my second lap, I made a few mistakes because, as I said, the car is tricky to drive and I couldn't put in a clear lap. I'm disappointed and sorry for the team, but we need work hard in order to sort out these issues by tomorrow."
Colin Kolles, Managing Director: "Unfortunately, Tiago made a mistake on the second flying lap of the first session that prevented him from making it into the second. Christijan did a good job and finished 14th in the first session, and he probably could have held that position in the second session if he had been able to repeat that time. But our pace looks promising. We are solidly mixing it up with our rivals now, and if we have some luck and run a smart race, we can be competitive tomorrow."
Johnny Herbert, Sporting Relations Manager: "It was a good effort by everyone overall. For Tiago, it's a shame that he lost some time on his second split, because if he'd got that one together, he'd have probably got through to the second round. Christijan did a very good job to crack the second session, especially considering the problems he's had with his mouth ulcers. Given our tyre choice and pace all weekend, both drivers should have a strong race."
James Key, Technical Director: "We're reasonably optimistic heading into tomorrow, because I think the tyre we chose is going to be good for the race. We've gone with the harder of the two compounds we had yesterday, and I think it's definitely the right decision given the track conditions. The qualifying times were extremely close and with a little luck, we might have been able to get both cars higher up into the second session - it was that close. Unfortunately for Tiago, he didn't make it through, which is a shame, but we'll think about race strategies to give him a shot at a better result. We can race competitively tomorrow, and that's what we need to make sure we do."
Scott Speed (15th, 1:17.063): "Qualifying did not go too well, because we were unable to get the most out of the tyres on our first flying lap. All the same, I was very happy with my final lap which was very good from a driving point of view. So we did both our fastest laps on the second timed lap of each run, which is never a good sign on new tyres. I was surprised, because tyre degradation here is usually very high. Our car is definitely better balanced in race trim, so I hope that pays off big time tomorrow. I reckon we can have a good race pace tomorrow."
Vitantonio Liuzzi (17th, 1:17.164): "That first part of qualifying was very close. I am disappointed because I got caught up in traffic on my second set of tyres. Actually I was slowed down by David! A shame, as I could have easily made it through to the second part of the session, but today it didn't work out. Traffic in qualifying is always bad and it's just part of the game."
Franck Montagny (21st, 1:18.637): "It was a good Qualifying session because this morning I was quite happy about the changes the guys had made to the set-up of the car. The car reacted quite okay to the changes this afternoon and for the first time I could beat my team mate and I am happy with that, especially as it is here at my home grand prix in France. So far the car is performing well, so I hope it's going to continue and I will try my best for the race tomorrow."
Takuma Sato (22nd, 1:18.845): "We had a difficult start as we suffered with a mechanical problem this morning which meant that I lost a lot of time during the practice session and I was unable to run the prepared set-up from yesterday. In Qualifying I think that we came back well, but I suffered a little bit with low grip, but I believe that I have a strong overall package for the race tomorrow."
Aguri Suzuki, Team Principal: "It was a good day today. Taku's car had a small problem this morning, but there were no problems for us during Qualifying and the fastest times of our cars are very close together. I am happy that we are closing the gap and that there is only a one-second gap between us and our nearest competitors. We are still in our original car, so this bodes well for the next Grand Prix when we shall be introducing the SA06. Tomorrow we need to finish the race with both cars and I especially hope that Franck sees the chequered flag at his home race, which would be very special for him and the team."