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2001 Japanese Grand Prix 
What the teams and drivers said - Saturday  

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What the teams and drivers said - Saturday

Ferrari ( Michael Schumacher - 1st, Rubens Barrichello - 4th )

Jean Todt: "The results speak for themselves: eleven poles in the year is a record for Ferrari and for Michael Schumacher. Rubens Barrichello's fourth place is further confirmation of the worth of our car and of the Bridgestone tyres on a track that is very demanding to drive. Tomorrow's is the last race of the season and we will do all we can to win it. We are aware that it will be very tough, given the strength of our opponents. Once again, our team has shown it has the determination and motivation which has led us to the world championship titles."

Michael Schumacher: "We expected to be fast here and we were. However, we had predicted a lap time much slower than this, so for once it's nice when the prediction is wrong!. We made a few changes in between the runs which improved the car. It was certainly very good and felt nice to drive. Bridgestone has produced a great tyre, which was particularly good through the Esses. I must say this section is very tough physically now. In the past, the cars used to slide around, but today we had so much grip that it's quite a challenge. I think the Bridgestones were the best in the faster sections, while the other tyre might have an advantage here under braking and in terms of traction. I used the new chassis, although I cannot say if this contributed to my lap times. The purpose of the new chassis is to improve for next year rather than to be quick over one lap. I know that if I win tomorrow, I will have scored more points than any other driver, but if I can help Rubens to come second in the championship then that is my job and it is more important than the points. I expect I will score some more points next year!."

Rubens Barrichello: "I gave it my best shot. Just as happened in Indianapolis, I was unable to dial out all the understeer and that prevented me from going any quicker. However, on worn tyres this is less of a problem and so, I am pretty confident for tomorrow's race, given that under these conditions the balance of the car is much better. I expect to be competitive tomorrow, even if there are less passing opportunities here than in Indianapolis."

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Williams ( Juan Pablo Montoya - 2nd, Ralf Schumacher - 3rd )

Patrick Head: "Both the drivers extracted the maximum possible from their cars in qualifying. It is going to be a very interesting race tomorrow and we will see how Michelin and Bridgestone match up against each other. I believe it will be a very strategic race tomorrow."

Dr. Mario Thiessen: "This was a very good qualifying session. The only person we could not beat was the World Champion. Apart from Michael's outstanding time in the first sector, we were able to match his split times. I think Ralf and Juan Pablo got the most out of the cars. So far we have not suffered any technical problems with the engine in Suzuka. We have every chance of achieving a very good result in this final race of the season."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "I think second and third for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team here is pretty good and I like this circuit a lot. I think it is not too bad being on front row at the first visit to Suzuka but I think experience in this place would help quite a lot. Yesterday on high fuel the car felt really good and it did the same this morning, but then we got lost a little bit. The first two runs in qualifying were okay, then in the third one we picked up the pace through the esses and it is a place were you really have to flow. My car didn't have as good stability as Michael's and I think that was all the difference."

Ralf Schumacher: "Qualifying went pretty well. We have been working really hard after we had some problems yesterday. It is nice for the team to have both of us so high on the grid. Michael was driving in his own world, he was unbeatable. We have a very good car for the race, and quite a good chance of podium finishes. It would be nice to finish ahead of Rubens, although we are only fighting for third place in the Championship."

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McLaren ( Mika Hakkinen - 5th, David Coulthard - 7th )

Ron Dennis: "Tomorrow will be another day and our performance should reflect the commitment that we put into finding the optimum race set-up. Even so, our qualifying should have been better."

Norbert Haug: "Not the qualifying result we aimed for. In race trim I expect us to be definitely better."

Mika Hakkinen: "Obviously I would have preferred to be higher up the grid and that the gap to Michael was not so big. We were confident after this morning's practice, but it just seemed the other teams made a massive step forward and we didn't. The Suzuka circuit layout with its sweeping high speed corners requires a lot of front end grip, but we just couldn't get it right. We tried to modify the car during the session and did all the usual things, which should improve the car like dropping the ride height and modifying the tyre pressures, but it never gave us enough. The team will have plenty of work to do before the race to understand the situation and find a solution. However, as always the race is a different story and I don't expect there to be such a large gap. I'm confident that the engineers will find the right set-up and tactic and that we will be competitive tomorrow so I can start my break in a positive way."

David Coulthard: "We knew before qualifying that certain factors might play the result into the competitions' hands, but I don't think we expected such a large gap. I'm not particularly concerned about second place in the Championship as long as I go out tomorrow and do my best. I have always struggled at Suzuka but I'm close to Mika and we will see what happens in the race, where I will be as motivated as ever."

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Benetton ( Giancarlo Fisichella - 6th, Jenson Button - 9th  )

Pat Symonds: "With a result like this I guess the season is finishing too early for us. Our hope for this year was to lay strong foundations for 2002. I hope that we have done that today. With the large amount of running we have done on high fuel loads this weekend, I feel very confident for the race. Our tyres seem to be very competitive and we look forward to a good finish to this season tomorrow."

Giancarlo Fisichella: "A great qualifying session � the best of the year for both Jenson and myself. I must say that I was confident even before the start. It's a big satisfaction, especially as we had some problems yesterday that delayed today's programme. I ran with the new engine specification and the car had a very good balance. I am confident for tomorrow and I would like to thank the whole team for the effort everyone has put in."

Jenson Button: "This has definitely been a good day � our most successful qualifying effort this season. We have made steady progress throughout the year. I wasn't terribly quick in the first sector but I was very good in the last two sectors. With the set-up we used today I had a little bit of understeer and it was difficult to find a perfect balance, but overall I think we are in good shape for tomorrow."

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Jordan ( Jarno Trulli - 8th, Jean Alesi - 11th )

Trevor Foster: "We had hoped for slightly better grid positions than we achieved, although we were not a million miles away from where we expected to be. I think Jarno was unlucky not to have made P6, but ultimately he wasn't able to put together his best sector times in one lap. The session was trouble free, though, and it was good to see Jean enjoying himself."

Jarno Trulli: "Today's result was a little disappointing as the car felt very good and I think I could have been in sixth position if I had not been held up by traffic on my fastest lap. Unfortunately, however, I lost a lot of time in the second section on that run, and then I was not able to improve the time on the final two outings. Nevertheless, it was not a bad result and I feel I got the best out of the car."

Jean Alesi: "I enjoyed it out there today although of course I would have rather finished my last qualifying higher up the grid as 11th is not a great result for the team. I feel I got the best I could out of the car, but I just couldn't get past the 1.34.4 time, despite hard work with David Brown, my race engineer, to see how we could find some improvements to the lap time. There were no problems though, and I enjoyed the session very much. I am very much looking forward to tomorrow's race, a little more than usual of course!."

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Sauber ( Nick Heidfeld - 10th, Kimi Raikkonen - 12th )

Peter Sauber: "That was a very hard and competitive qualifying session, especially now we have very strong Benetton Renaults. Our goal is always as a minimum to qualify one car in the top 10, so we achieved that with Nick and I am happy with that result."

Nick Heidfeld: "The team did a great job last night to get my race car repaired, for which I'd like to thank them. To be honest, after yesterday I didn't expect to make the top 10, so I'm pleased with this afternoon's result. The car wasn't quite as good in qualifying as it had been in the last two races, and on my last run I got some traffic. Not enough to hold me up, but enough to lose me some downforce. That was a pity because I had improved in the second sector. Overall, though, I'm happy, and confident that we will be strong in the race."

Kimi Raikkonen: "Early on the car was too heavy when I had to go for a weight check, and after we had corrected that my other runs were hampered by understeer. On the final run we still hadn't dialled that out, and then I got some traffic, which was frustrating."

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Jaguar ( Eddie Irvine - 13th, Pedro de la Rosa - 16th )

Niki Lauda: "No surprises there. Both drivers extracted what they could from the package and we'll just have to push hard tomorrow in the hope of finishing above Benetton-Renault. We may not have the quickest car on the grid, but as we showed recently in Indianapolis and Monza, it performs well in race trim. When you're suffering from aerodynamic problems like we have been, there is very little you can do about it over the course of a race weekend. You just have to live with it and do the best you can. It's frustrating for everybody here who has worked so hard all season and to take 7th place in the Constructor's would be just reward for these efforts. We have also been working very hard on next year's car for quite some time and that explains why we haven't developed this season's Jaguar R2 since Hungary. With Benetton-Renault, we have a very tough job ahead of us tomorrow. Let's see how successful we are in taking on this final challenge of the season.�

Eddie Irvine: "While we have nothing to celebrate by qualifying 13th, I am surprised at my qualifying time. We simply didn't expect it to be that quick relative to what we found during the morning warm-up sessions. I was expecting to post a time in the 1 minute 35 second bracket and to be honest, I have no idea why I managed a better time. The car felt well balanced throughout the session but, as we've experienced all season, we are not performing well in the high-speed corners. My concern before qualifying was Benetton-Renault and it proved correct. As was the case in Spa, the Benettons have taken advantage of their new aero package and compared to us, they certainly have the upper hand at this circuit. We have beaten them on high downforce circuits this year, but this is where they are strong. It's a very tall order to make something out of tomorrow's race, but that's what we thought in Indianapolis and look what happened!�.�

Pedro de la Rosa: "I'm disappointed, yes, but not that surprised. It's so difficult finding enough grip out there. Normally, you tend to find more grip as the weekend gets longer, but there doesn't appear to have been that much of an improvement for me. I suppose I could have got an extra tenth or two, but it really wouldn't have made that much of a difference today. We have, however, learned things from the past two days and that's always positive. We will feed this data into the development work that is currently underway on next year's car. Getting 7th in the Constructor's Championship means a lot to everybody here and we'll do everything in our power to achieve this tomorrow. Far from easy, I know, but far from impossible too."

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BAR ( Jacques Villeneuve - 14th, Olivier Panis - 17th )

Malcolm Oastler: "Today didn't quite yield the improvement we had hoped for. The team have worked hard to make a step up, so it's disappointing to be starting so low on the grid. Jacques and Olivier drove hard today and we have achieved a good baseline set-up on both cars. Now we need to keep working to achieve something better from the race tomorrow."

Jacques Villeneuve: "The car felt good today so, relatively speaking, it was a good day compared to Indy. The balance was good, the set-up was good and the tyres felt good. We've been working hard with the car all weekend and I drove hard in qualifying. 14th was the best I could get from the car - that's just how fast it will go. We tend to do better in race trim so I'm still looking forward to the race and hoping we can get at least a point."

Olivier Panis: "I'm really disappointed to have qualified 17th. We worked very hard and did the best job possible but we could not improve our position. There is obviously a problem that we need to identify but we have to react quickly if we are to be competitive in the race."

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Prost ( Heinz Harald Frentzen - 15th, Tomas Enge - 19th )

Joan Villadelprat: "Again we have mixed feelings today. On one hand, we are happy that Tomas was able to get back in the game after yesterday's accident and he did a very good job considering it is his first time on this track. We are very satisfied with what he achieved since he has joined the team. On the other hand, we feel a bit disappointed with Heinz-Harald's final position. He had been very competitive since the start of the weekend but could not confirm in today's qualifying. It looks like we just did not manage to improve the car enough to reach the top ten position we were aiming at. However this does not affect our hopes for tomorrow: we managed to build a good race set-up, and our car's balance on high fuel load is very satisfactory. Therefore we feel well prepared and ready for tomorrow's Grand Prix."

Heinz Harald Frentzen: "I tried very hard in today's qualifying. I really did the maximum to improve. I achieved the best lap time in my first outing. The second and third ones were indeed exactly in the same tenth of a second! I pushed like hell but could not get out of the 1'35''1 bracket. On this track, you need a perfect car balance to achieve the optimum lap time. As our car still had some understeer I believe we did the best we could do here today."

Tomas Enge: "After yesterday's accident, I had to get used to run on new tyres and honestly, I drove a bit slower than I could have in the beginning. After my first outing I chose not to change anything on the car since the balance felt reasonably good. This is when I managed to post my best time. Then we tried some small modifications on the car but they did not help us at all and I gave up my third try to come back to the pits. Unfortunately, I made a small mistake in my last run and flat spotted my tyres. I believe this is partly due to my lack of experience of both the car and the track. For sure, it penalized me to lose yesterday's second session, but I also need to get more experienced to optimise quicker the set-up and balance of my car. So, relatively, I am quite satisfied with my final position and most of all, I am very thankful to the team: because of yesterday's crash, everybody worked very hard through the night to give me a good car today and they really did. Now I am looking forward to finishing the race in the best possible position, and to learning as much as possible from it."

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Minardi ( Fernando Alonso - 18th, Alex Yoong - 22nd )

Paul Stoddart: "Today we completed the final qualifying session of 2001 for the new European Minardi F1 team. It has been an interesting year and, as must be expected in motor racing, one that has provided its fair share of highs and lows. Fernando's performance today was outstanding, despite an 'off' on his last run that might otherwise have seen him qualify even higher than his praiseworthy 18th position. We are also very impressed with what Alex has achieved. Despite only setting the 22nd fastest time, he again did all the team asked of him and has now qualified comfortably for each of his first three Formula One races. We now look forward to a winter of working with him on his race fitness and ensuring he is able to accumulate the all-important testing miles that any young driver needs to prepare for a new season."

Fernando Alonso: "Today's performance is perhaps one of the best I have achieved in qualifying so far this year in terms of car set- up. I found an absolutely perfect balance, which allowed me to have a really confidence-inspiring car. To obtain a significantly better position would have been impossible, as the gap is really big, but I believe we put in full effort and achieved 100 per cent of our potential today. I feel happy with the result."

Alex Yoong: "It was quite a disappointing day for me because I was not able to improve my times much. There is not any particular reason, since we achieved a good balance with the car. I was caught up in some 'traffic' during my third run, which didn't help matters, but now I must just concentrate on tomorrow's race."

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Arrows ( Enrique Bernoldi - 20th, Jos Verstappen - 21st )

Graham Taylor: �Well both cars ran reliably today which is good but disappointingly we ended up where we thought we would be. Both drivers felt that they were able to improve the car throughout the session but had their best runs spoiled by traffic. It's a shame we couldn't get better grid positions but at the moment� C'est la vie!"

Enrique Bernoldi: �All in all qualifying went to plan for me today. I made steady progress throughout the session but had trouble with traffic on my last run. I'm happy that I beat my team-mate but obviously I am not happy with the position on the grid. Hopefully we will be able to have a good race tomorrow as it would be good to have a positive end to the season.�

Jos Verstappen: �I think we could have gone a little quicker today but it wouldn't have made much difference to our positions. The car was handling well but we just don't have the pace. We have to remember though that the car is always more competitive in race trim so we can hope to end the season on a high note tomorrow.�

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What the teams and drivers said
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