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Japanese Grand Prix
What the teams and drivers said - Friday
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What the teams and drivers said - Friday
Jordan ( Jean Alesi - 1st, Jarno Trulli - 11th )
Jean Alesi: "It cannot be better for my last Friday than to be first. I enjoyed the session. Straight away this morning the car had a very good level balance. With my race engineer we made a good performance possible - the car was good to drive."
Jarno Trulli: "It was a good session without too many problems. We worked on set-up for race conditions and I must say the car is pretty well balanced. I am quite confident for tomorrow. We tried to improve the rear of the car, working particularly on traction."
Williams ( Juan Pablo Montoya - 2nd, Ralf Schumacher - 9th )
Patrick Head: "A useful day of homework with both cars,” added Patrick Head. “We had a small technical problem on Ralf's car with the throttle control, but the problem was isolated and corrected. Otherwise the work has been mostly comparing the two tyres and making decisions for tomorrow, as usual."
Gerhard Berger: "Practice went very well for us. The team and both drivers found a good rhythm, which is important for this track. Given that Juan Pablo is driving here on one of the most difficult Formula 1 tracks for the first time, his lap times are impressive and underline his talent. Ralf seems to have difficulties finding his best set-up. If we don't have any technical problems tomorrow we should be fighting for the front two rows in qualifying."
Juan Pablo Montoya: "The track is brilliant and you really have got to drive it. It is one of those tracks where you have got to push in every corner, it is very exciting. It is quite tricky, you have to time it right and you can slide the car round. I do enjoy it. The car is fine, we have to decide which tyre we are going to use, but both look okay as Michelin have done a good job for here."
Ralf Schumacher: "We didn't get the set-up how we wanted it today. I had too much understeer and, due to a minor electronic problem, I could not do as many laps as I wanted to. We haven't made the decision which tyres to use yet, so until tomorrow we have some work to do."
McLaren ( Mika Hakkinen - 4th, David Coulthard - 7th )
Ron Dennis: "An uneventful but positive Friday practice session."
Norbert Haug: "Quite a positive start to the weekend. The team learnt a lot and we are all reasonably happy with the progress we made."
Mika Hakkinen: "Today’s two sessions have left me with a positive impression. We have been able to optimise the set-up step by step with encouraging results. This circuit requires a very refined set up as it’s extremely tricky, especially the first sector with its fast corners."
David Coulthard: "A pretty normal Friday’s practice where we compared tyre compounds and did some general set up work to establish what is the right way to go. I’m pretty pleased with the balance so far. There was a bit of a tricky moment in the second session when I went wide at the entry to Turn One. Some blanking tape getting on my left front brake disc caused a small fire during one of my stops, but no major drama at all. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and aim to finish the season with a good result."
Jaguar ( Pedro de la Rosa - 3rd, Eddie Irvine - 6th )
Niki Lauda: "That was a perfectly normal job list for a Friday and we achieved everything we set out to do. The final classification times are not worth reading into. We have a well-balanced car that works very well through the slow to medium speed corners. The problem, however, is the longer high-speed corners and to be honest, it's the same issue we have been fighting all season. This lack of high-speed grip is losing us valuable time and the drivers are having to correct the car in places where they shouldn't. Nonetheless, we have proved many times this season that we can make up for such handicaps and the team will work hard in an effort to address the issues before tomorrow's qualifying session."
Pedro de la Rosa: "Today offered us a good test session. We have spent the free practice sessions gathering information and preparing ourselves for what lies ahead this weekend – a tough challenge, that is!. I enjoy driving at this circuit, but to really get the best out of the package we have, we need more front and rear end grip. The Michelin tyres seem OK, but we don't seem to be getting the best out of them. The balance of the car is quite good – it's just lacking general grip and sliding too much through the high-speed corners. The car feels great through the Esses, but loses grip through some of the faster corners like 130R. We'll see what, if anything, can be done about the problem. I doubt there is much we can do before tomorrow and we'll simply have to give it our best shot."
Eddie Irvine: "It's good to be back at Suzuka. We achieved everything we had planned, but I think we are going to struggle at this circuit. This year, we have not been strong on medium to high-speed corners and this circuit is full of them. It's going to be tough and we've just got to do the best we can. The tyres are good, but we are not pushing the optimum performance out of them. I found the circuit quite slippery when I first went out this morning and couldn't quite understand why the car felt so twitchy. This problem, however, got better over the course of the two sessions. Aerodynamically speaking, we are suffering from the same problems we've had all year in that we can't get the car to work well on low to medium downforce circuits. It's no surprise, and we'll see what can be done in an effort to lessen the problem before qualifying tomorrow."
Prost ( Heinz Harald Frentzen - 5th, Tomas Enge - 22nd )
Joan Villadelprat: "This was a very positive first day for us. We were able to complete a lot of work in view of the race itself, we tried the two compounds proposed by Michelin and we now have a clear picture of what suits our car best on this track. Our cars proved to be competitive today despite the second session was shortened for both our drivers : Tomas spun off and stalled the engine which cost him the last 15 minutes of practice. We also had a couple of mechanical problems on Heinz-Harald’s car : he came back because of a throttle link failure, and ten minutes before the end of the session, we decided not to restart because of a problem related to the gearbox. But we are overall very satisfied with this first day. Our competitiveness today is very promising, and it will be a key in tomorrow’s qualifying as the gaps will be very close."
Heinz Harald Frentzen: "This was an exciting first day! I think I have never done so well on the Suzuka circuit in terms of speed and consistency. The track was quite good and our car was in good shape too. We have been able to do quite a lot of testing during the two practice sessions and completed our programme. Unfortunately Tomas had a crash this morning which cost him valuable time to learn the track and to do some additional set-up work. So it is quite a mixed emotions day for the team, but I am happy that Tomas was unhurt."
Tomas Enge: "This morning the track was really slippery and it was quite difficult for me to learn the circuit as quickly as possible and to get a feel of the car at the same time. I did not want to make any mistake and I have been able to improve lap by lap. Unfortunately, while I was pushing hard to improve, I entered too fast in a corner and lost the rear of the car. Once I got out of the line, there was nothing I could do to prevent from crashing into the barriers. It is very disappointing because the car is very badly damaged and I lost the benefit of the entire second session. However, looking at Heinz-Harald's work today, it seems the car can be very competitive here, and I am confident we can do a good job together through the rest of the weekend."
Ferrari ( Michael Schumacher - 8th, Rubens Barrichello - 10th )
Jean Todt: "It's been another normal Friday, during which we worked on tyre choice for qualifying and the race and on finding the best set-up for Sunday afternoon. Both drivers used the three sets of tyres available to them today. I am sure the final qualifying result will look different to today's time sheet."
Ross Brawn: "We did enough laps to get a tyre comparison done and we have enough information to have a good idea what we need to run. Rubens had a couple of small problems this afternoon, which we managed to fix. This track is hyper-sensitive to fuel load, which is you see a big gap between cars running a low load and those running more. But I think we are in good shape for tomorrow and the cars are handling quite well."
Michael Schumacher: "I like this circuit very much as it has several really good corners. The modifications which have been made to some parts of the track seem good as we now have more run-off area in some sections. I cannot say much about the new chassis, as it is the only car I have driven today, so I have nothing to compare it with. But it seems fine. The two types of tyre on offer from Bridgestone are very similar, but I think we have an idea which way to go. The competition between Bridgestone and the other brand of tyre seems very close, so it will be interesting to see who is on top tomorrow afternoon."
Rubens Barrichello: “I am not concerned about my position or the time gap to the front runners, as it is easy to do a good time here, running with a light fuel load. Today's times don't matter and I am still confident for both tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday afternoon. I found the car a bit difficult to drive today and I had some problems with braking. Now we will try and find a solution to that in time for the rest of the weekend."
Benetton ( Jenson Button - 12th, Giancarlo Fisichella - 16th )
Pat Symonds: "The tyre choice here can often be difficult and it was important to have a trouble free session today. We managed a healthy number of laps, but unfortunately a problem with the water system on Giancarlo's car led to some engine damage, while Jenson had a fuel leak that did not allow him to do as many laps as he would have liked. We now understand much more about the tyres, however, and both drivers have gone some way to achieving a reasonable chassis balance."
Jenson Button: "In this session we have made some major improvements with the brakes, which is good. This morning my car had a bit of understeer, but we sorted that out and afterwards the set-up was good. I think we have found the right tyre compound to use for the race. My track time this afternoon was cut short because of a fuel leak occurred towards the end of the second session."
Giancarlo Fisichella: "We were in top ten before I had to stop running because of an engine problem. At the beginning of the session the chassis was a little bit nervous at first, but we managed to improve it and find a good balance. I had just gone out on my second set of tyres when the engine problem occurred and I had to stop and the session was over for me."
Sauber ( Nick Heidfeld - 13th, Kimi Raikkonen - 15th )
Peter Sauber: "Until Nick went off the session was quite satisfactory, and he was ninth fastest at that point. We are relieved that he escaped a sizeable accident without injury. Kimi still needs a bit more time to learn the track."
Nick Heidfeld: "My car was good this morning, and we were working through our tyre comparison when I went off in the last right-hander in the Esses on my first flying lap on new tyres partway through the second session. I just had too much understeer, got on to the grass and spun. It was a big impact but fortunately I went in backwards. I'm okay."
Kimi Raikkonen: "We completed our programme as planned today, without any problems. This is a great circuit, but I'm still finding my way round."
BAR ( Jacques Villeneuve - 14th, Olivier Panis - 15th )
Malcolm Oastler: "The team are working hard to do the best job we can for the last race of the season. The weekend started quite well although Olivier's car has a minor technical problem that we need to correct before the second session tomorrow. Then our focus will be on qualifying better than we have of late to give us the best possible chance for the race."
Olivier Panis: "We had a small problem with my car today so it was difficult to start working on the right set-up. I'm sure we can identify the problem and move forward in practice tomorrow. We need to qualify much better then I'm sure this race can be a big improvement after the US Grand Prix."
Jacques Villeneuve: "The weekend started OK, the car felt good and the running went reasonably well. The car seems to be responding to set-up changes. 14th is obviously not good enough but the engine seems to be working well and it's good to have some improvement. All in all, it looks like we'll be better off than in Indy and this should be one of our good races, which means hopefully qualifying the right side of midfield and finishing in the points."
Minardi ( Fernando Alonso - 17th, Alex Yoong - 21st )Paul Stoddart: "Today saw European Minardi F1 drivers, Fernando Alonso and Alex Yoong, complete full technical programs and finish in 17th and 21st positions respectively - very creditable performances that will assist them in their preparations for tomorrow's qualifying session. It's particularly pleasing when one considers that Fernando has never seen this circuit before and that this is only Alex's third time in a Formula One car in race weekend conditions. Both chassis were fitted with the latest specification gearboxes and, we're pleased to say, they were trouble-free throughout today's sessions. We also completed our full complement of laps, so it is very much 'mission accomplished' at the end of the first day."
Fernando Alonso: "As Suzuka is absolutely new to me, I tried to make the most of today's first free practice session to familiarise myself with the circuit, which is not one of the easiest. We worked a lot on the car settings, and in the afternoon session I pushed to the maximum on the last two runs when I was on new tyres. Overall, today's session turned out to be satisfying, especially considering we ran with a lot of fuel on board. I therefore feel pretty confident for tomorrow."
Alex Yoong: "The second session was much better than the first session. This morning, I had a few problems with the handling of my car and we therefore decided to make some set-up changes for the second session. The times seem not too bad, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I have driven on this track before, which helped me today and allowed me to focus more on the car set-up. Even so, I must say this is a very demanding circuit."
Arrows ( Jos Verstappen - 19th, Enrique Bernoldi - 20th )
Graham Taylor: "We had a good, reliable day today. Enrique did well to quickly get to grips with a circuit that is new to him and both drivers did very good tyre compares. We can look forward to tomorrow as now we have the tyre balance sorted out we can fully concentrate on our qualifying set-up."
Jos Verstappen: "I had a very good session today and actually got a lot more work done than originally planned. I'm happy with the work we got through. We still need to find more downforce but overall I'm pretty pleased as we know which way to go on set-up and I always enjoy this track anyway."
Enrique Bernoldi: "We got some good work done today including learning a lot about the tyres. We've gradually improved our set-up from our starting point this morning but it still needs a little work. This is my first time at Suzuka and I have to say that I enjoy the circuit very much. It's a real challenge as it has a good combination of corners and I'm looking forward to getting back onto the track tomorrow."