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French Grand Prix
What the teams and drivers said - Saturday
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What the teams and drivers said - Saturday
Patrick Head: "This is an excellent first pole for Ralf, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team and for Michelin since its return to the sport. It was certainly a very close one. Juan Pablo was badly held up on his last lap, but, like Ralf, he is happy with his car so we will just have to see what happens tomorrow."
Gerhard Berger: "It is refreshing to see three teams fighting for pole. It was the most interesting qualifying we have seen for quite a while and this close competition is very good for Formula One. Obviously we are very happy with the first pole for BMW in its new era in Formula One. It was a strong performance by Ralf, WilliamsF1 and Michelin. Juan Pablo drove well but unfortunately was held up on his last lap."
Ralf Schumacher: "I am really happy about my first pole. It was very tight, in fact I didn't expect after this morning that we were able to beat them here, but it worked out - very tight but tough, it was enough. The team did a great job and I had a very good car. Unfortunately we are not given points for qualifying. I believe it will be a very close race tomorrow and hope for a better start than I had in the Nurburgring. I think we are well prepared for the race and have also made the right tyre choice."
Juan Pablo Montoya: "This was a pretty good qualifying and I am feeling quite confident for the race. The car is good, but unfortunately I was blocked on my last lap in the final sector by Jean Alesi."
Jean Todt: "It was a very close qualifying session, during which we witnessed the now customary battle between the three top teams. I am sorry for Rubens, as we were unable to get the most out of his car and that meant he could not secure himself a place higher up the grid. The race will be very tough and hard fought and we will be frontrunners. Tyre performance will be very important, as will be the strategy and of course, reliability.”
Ross Brawn: "It was a little bit disappointing in the end. Michael might perhaps have been able to beat Ralf today. One hundredth of a second is nothing. I came on the radio at the wrong time and spoiled one of his laps. We never got our three best sector times on the same lap and if we had, Michael would have been three tenths quicker than Ralf. Rubens is a little bit further back than we would like to see him. I think it will be a hard race tomorrow. Tyre consistency will be difficult tomorrow and that will make for an interesting race."
Michael Schumacher: "It's possible I could have gone a little bit faster on my last run, but it's the final result that counts. At least it's a nice way for Ralf to celebrate his birthday!. I went out earlier than usual for my final run, because we saw that there a lot of cars that still had some laps left and I didn't want to get caught up in the mess at the end. It was the right decision. On my third run I was held up by a Jordan. It was a shame, as it could have been my best run. As for the race, as far as I am concerned, the hotter the conditions the better as the new tyre Bridgestone has brought here seems to work well in all conditions. The new exit to the pit lane is not 100% satisfactory as cars going quickly through the corner drift towards the outside and the exit from the pits. We will discuss it again in the Drivers' Briefing."
Rubens Barrichello: "I could not find the right set-up today. The car was very nervous under braking and that stopped me having a good session. For example, I had to abort my second run, because I went straight on at a corner as I could not control the car under braking. It was a really bad day. Now we have to work to find out how to improve the car for the race. Starting from the fourth row is not ideal, but with a good strategy, I think we can make up some places."
Ron Dennis: "Today our engineers and drivers did a great job at optimising the cars. However missing pole by a relatively small margin is disappointing, but it should not detract from our ability to win the race as this circuit does provide some opportunities for overtaking. If the trend from previous races this year continues then our competitiveness tomorrow should be even better than in qualifying."
David Coulthard: "I'm reasonably happy with starting the race from the second row as I have won from this position before. Bridgestone has brought out a new tyre this weekend, which performs really well. My third run was going to be very quick, but there was a little bit of gravel on the track at turn 13 so I had to brake early and lost time. As a result before my final run I knew it was possible to go faster. However I wasn't as quick, but we can definitely take encouragement because we could have performed even better. I'm looking forward to the race as generally we have been capable of more in the races than in qualifying."
Mika Hakkinen: "Its encouraging to be a lot closer to the front row than we were last weekend. Unfortunately I lost a couple of tenths in the mid-sector during my fastest run. Now we will work hard before tomorrow's race where the temperature and the track conditions will be essential. If we can be consistent throughout the race I'm confident of a positive outcome."
Eddie Jordan: "A very exciting qualifying. Happy Birthday to Ralf, getting his first pole position; I'm happy for him and I'm happy for Jarno and for Heinz. Jarno's last quick lap was a very good, competent effort. Heinz has had a difficult time recently and to come back and fight hard like that and set that time, even though he was baulked by a slower car, was very impressive. Now we've got to translate such an encouraging performance into points at the end of 72 laps tomorrow."
Jarno Trulli: "I must say that Bridgestone brought very good tyres. They are a major step forward in terms of performance, especially for the race. So, I think I can do a good job tomorrow. The balance of the car was perfect. We worked very well throughout the test and through practice here. Qualifying was tough because of traffic; it was hard to find a clear lap. I also have to apologise to Michael Schumacher because I made a misjudgement. I saw him coming and tried to get out of his way, but I don't think it was enough. We spoke at the end of qualifying and I explained what happened. But, overall, I'm very pleased with our qualifying performance. Everyone on the team did a great job."
Heinz Harald Frentzen : "After a tremendously unlucky session this morning, when I spent most of the time in the pits and couldn't work on the qualifying set-up, I'm pleased with this result. We went into qualifying without knowing about how good or bad the balance would be. We just based the qualifying set-up on theory rather through logical conclusions reached during the morning. So I'm happy with seventh place even if I couldn't improve my lap time because of incidents during the last two runs. On one of them, unfortunately, Olivier Panis was in the way and I don't understand that because he was in on his 'in' lap. I am only a couple of tenths away from Montoya in sixth place and I could maybe have done something about that. Still, seventh is pretty good; more than I thought might be possible at one stage this morning!'."
"I'm happy to have one of our cars
in the top 10 here at Magny-Cours, because that was a very tough
qualifying session. Congratulations to Nick Heidfeld – well done!
Nick Heidfeld: "All through qualifying we made little adjustments to the car which improved it each time. My second to last run was pretty good until I came across gravel that somebody had thrown on to the track after the second chicane and lost time. My last run was clear and clean, and I'm satisfied with ninth place because qualifying was very difficult here. We struggled a bit with set-up yesterday, but now I think we are in very good shape for the race."
Kimi Raikkonen: "I wasn't quite happy with the balance of my car this afternoon, especially in the first corner which is very quick. The car was just moving around a little too much on the track."
Craig Pollock: "The team had two good practice sessions this morning and I feel both Jacques and Olivier did a very good job in qualifying. We ran reasonably well but we’re still a little disappointed with our qualifying position. We haven’t yet been able to capitalise on our qualifying potential. We recognise that this is a weak area and although we have done a great deal of work and made some steady progress, there’s still quite a way to go. Our past performance has shown that we are better in the race so we remain optimistic for tomorrow."
Jacques Villeneuve: "We had a reasonably good qualifying session today the car was very driveable so I could push it quite well. I couldn’t get turn one right the high speed corner. Every lap I was losing two or three tenths compared with other drivers so there’s still a bit of time in it for us. I don’t think we could have improved that much more on the rest of the track today. In the last couple of races we’ve improved our set-up a lot and made a big step forward. We’ve made some positive aerodynamic developments but the competition is very strong this year. I’m looking forward to the race as with the Nurburgring, we know we will perform very well in race trim."
Olivier Panis: "To be honest I’m very disappointed with 11th position. I felt that, today, we had a car that was capable of maybe seventh or eighth place but we didn’t get the best from it because I had bad traffic on my final flying lap. Qualifying is still difficult for us so we need to improve our performance there. But we also need to improve the car for the race tomorrow."
Bobby Rahal: "It was a problematic session but Eddie started well with a great lap and it all looked good until he went off and that obviously meant we lost valuable time. I'm disappointed because we were not able to improve through the session, especially since the midfield pack was so tight. Even so, the performance of the car was a little better but we still have to make it more consistent so that our drivers can push it harder and close the gap on our competitive group. Obviously we'd like to be at the head of that group but our expectations are now higher because of our improved performance over the last few races. Don't rule us out of the equation tomorrow though."
Eddie Irvine: "It was obviously disappointing to lose the race car but it’s debatable whether I could have got further up the grid with it today. My first lap was bloody good although there was one corner where the car didn’t select a lower gear as I was going a bit too fast and I lost a bit of momentum from that. I was two and half tenths off moving up a position and everyone improved through the session so you have to assume I would have too. The T-car was actually slightly better balanced than my race car but into corner seven the rear end of the car was very wayward and I half spun on my last lap. We know the car is good in race trim so if I push hard tomorrow you never know.”
Pedro de la Rosa: "I had a problem with the electrics on my overhead gantry so that was why my start was delayed for 20 minutes. We had made a few changes on the car since the warm-up this morning and it felt much better. I still, however, made a mistake on my fastest lap and if I had hooked it up perfectly, I would have been in the 1 minute 14 seconds zone. On my last run, which was the best, I was pushing so hard I nearly went off and this cost me a lot of time. Nevertheless, the car felt better than it has all weekend and we will race hard tomorrow for points."
Alain Prost: "We are clearly below the performance we were hoping for after the last races, and we were not able to confirm the positive effects of the modifications we have introduced on the car. Since yesterday, it has been extremely difficult to find a set-up that suits the fast curves, tight corners, and heavy braking of the changing Magny-Cours track. Luciano indeed started to find a good balance during qualifying, Jean did not have time to reach it and the fact that both of them spun did not help their confidence. Despite our disappointment, we remain concentrated on tomorrow’s Grand Prix, as we know how competitive we can be in the race. We will do our best to offer a good result to our public."
Luciano Burti: "I think I can say I am happy, considering how much we have been struggling this morning in free practice. We chose to make some big changes on the car at midday and it went into the right direction. When I did my best lap on the second run, I felt I was close to the limit of what the car could do here today. In the next run, I tried as hard as I could, but I passed the limit and spun off. Seeing the first two intermediates for sure this would have given us a much better position on the grid. However, I just feel happy that I could make the most of the car and let’s see tomorrow."
Jean Alesi: "I feel upset because we have never managed to set-up the car properly since the start of the weekend. This is my worst qualifying result so far, and I am very disappointed that it happened in front of my home crowd. Now I just want to move on and get ready for tomorrow."
Mike Gascoyne: "This morning during the free practice session we introduced a new aerodynamic package and it took us a bit of time to find a reasonable balance. The sector one times show that we still have to do a bit of fine-tuning in the higher-speed corners, but overall this has been a small step forward that hopefully marks the beginning of many steps forward. Both drivers did a good job today especially Jenson, who has matched his team-mate's pace the whole weekend. That is very refreshing for the whole team. We have a new race engine spec for tomorrow and must look to get both cars to the finish."
Giancarlo Fisichella: "We started this morning with the wrong set-up, but we managed to improve the car, which was fairly satisfying. Our new package is not yet fully sorted, but I am happy with the chassis balance. The latest engine evolution is definitely a step in the right direction but I think you will see even better performances from us very soon."
Jenson Button: "On our first qualifying run the car was well balanced, although it was a bit twitchy at the rear end. I could handle that, but my run was spoiled because Eddie Irvine spun off in front of me. My second run was better, but I'm afraid I mucked up the next two because I was supposed to adjust the differential setting after Turn Two. Unfortunately, I forgot to do so on both occasions."
Mike Coughlan: “We're just going to have to keep working hard to try to make progress. We didn't expect to get our best position of the year here but had hoped to be higher up than 18th and 20th. Both drivers did a good job today and got the best out of the cars so now we need to find them the speed they need to improve their qualifying performances.”
Jos Verstappen: “It was very hard for us today but we always knew it was going to be as our car doesn't suit this track. It really was the maximum we could do. The car is always more competitive in race trim though so all we can do is look forward to tomorrow's race and give it our best shot. It's going to be a very hard race, especially if it is as hot as today, but we can cope with that. As always I hope for a good start and then to stay out of trouble during the race and see what develops.”
Enrique Bernoldi: “Well that was a tough one. I think we got the set-up right today and didn't make any major changes during the session. The balance was good but, even though I improved throughout the session, we just couldn't get any more speed out of the car.”Paul Stoddart: "What would otherwise have been a reasonably good qualifying session for European Minardi was marred by an intentional blocking manoeuvre by Arrows and its driver, Enrique Bernoldi, which spoiled Fernando’s last run. This was orchestrated by a member of the Arrows team, positioned in the pit lane, who ensured Bernoldi’s exit from his garage was timed to perfection. This unsporting behaviour undoubtedly lost Fernando what would have been his best run of the afternoon. As usual, Tarso tried hard, but he struggled with an understeering chassis that we were unable to improve to any significant degree during the course of the day. On a positive note, both cars have run with reassuring reliability so far this weekend, and we intend that this trend should continue in tomorrow’s race."
Fernando Alonso: "I was happy with my car’s performance today, which definitely proved to be better than we had expected at the beginning. Everything turned out well. The only reason for me to be a bit disappointed is that my very last run was hampered by Bernoldi just after the team had decided it was the ideal moment for my last run and sent me out on the track. This should have been my quickest lap, but unfortunately, I was forced to slow and, as a result, was not able to improve my time. Apart from that, though, I feel pretty satisfied and am looking forward to the race."
Tarso Marques: "Compared with the morning session, the balance of my car today changed radically and, as a result, I had too much understeer, which affected the handling of the chassis. We made a few more changes for my last run, and the car did improve, but not enough to allow me to achieve a faster lap time. If we had found a better balance, I feel sure we could have exploited the potential of the car more effectively."