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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
Sam Michael: "Again we have achieved an excellent qualifying result for the team. Juan did a fantastic job to achieve his fifth pole position in a row. The tyres obviously worked extremely well and we are going into tomorrow’s race with more confidence than the previous races. Ralf did not quite get there, he was not too happy with the balance of his car. But he did a good job as well and has achieved a good starting position for the race."
Gerhard Berger: "Again this was an incredible show. It simply makes fun watching Juan Pablo. How he can exploit the maximum potential of the car. Compared to the past races we are in a better position here. We have both the cars in the top five, which is a good way to start a race."
Juan Pablo Montoya: "This was really a good qualifying, probably my best so far. The fight with Michael was exciting. We didn’t think we would get on pole here, as we thought at first that Ferrari was too quick. I had a very good last flying lap, but made a mistake in the last corner and lost a lot of time there. The car was brilliantly good and we made just a few changes throughout qualifying. Michelin has made a big step forward and has brought here some very consistent tyres which makes us confident for tomorrow's race."
Ralf Schumacher: "I still had some problems with the balance of my car. I must admit that it was my fault as I didn’t manage to get it in qualifying. I am angry for this as much as I am for the mistake I made in the last corner of my last flying lap, where I lost the chance of getting a better starting position. After all, my grid position is not too bad."
Jean Todt: "We witnessed a great fight in this qualifying session, with three teams getting their six cars within the half second. We were aiming to get both our cars on the two front rows and we have achieved that. Of course, it is a shame to have lost out on pole by just 23hundredths of a second. We know that tomorrow’s race will be very close. Once again, the tyres will be a key factor and we are confident in the work Bridgestone has done for this race. The French Grand Prix is the eleventh round of the season, but the fact that Michael has a mathematical chance of clinching the title here does not change our approach, nor the way we will tackle the race."
Ross Brawn: "We would have preferred to be on pole, but that could have spoilt the recent tradition, which has seen us win the last three races without starting from the front. Michael did a great lap at the end and almost managed to set the quickest time. We can expect a close race tomorrow. Strategy is very important at this race, as we proved last year. If we can stay with Montoya, there is a good chance we can try and win through the pit stops. This morning we saved tyres for the race, which meant that the cars were not perfect at the start of qualifying, so we had to wait for the later part of the session."
Michael Schumacher: "I enjoyed this afternoon’s battle for pole. On my first run, I missed the apex at the last chicane, hit the kerb and ran wide, so my time did not count. I thought it was so slow that they would allow it, but it did not matter. Then, on my third run, the car stepped out at the fast chicane and I had to go in a straight line. Quite rightly, they took that time away also. Then on my final run, I lost a bit of time in the final sector. The heat was not a problem this afternoon, but at the last corner you are just sliding, not driving. As for tomorrow, I think it will be a much closer race than the last ones, but we don’t really have a full picture of what to expect. Starting on the “dirty” side of the track does not make a big difference at this circuit Can I win for the sixth time here? That will be up to the guys in front and behind."
Rubens Barrichello: "Considering that this morning, the car was not working the way I like it, this is a good position for the start. We made a lot of changes on the car in between the sessions and the engineers did a good job. So, at the start of qualifying there was already a big improvement compared with the morning and then we fine tuned it more during the session. But I was a little bit disappointed with my fourth run when I did not get it all together. I think I could have done a 1m 12s, but not an 11.8."
Ron Dennis: "An interesting qualifying session which has seen the improvements to our package manifesting themselves in better lap times. We will be able to carry most of the pace into the race and a good result should be possible."
Norbert Haug: "An exciting qualifying session with Kimi being two and a half tenths away from pole position. The half a second time gap between the first three rows with David in sixth place hasn’t been so small for a long time, so let’s hope for a good race."
Kimi Raikkonen: "Fourth is my best qualifying performance ever, but I’m still a bit disappointed as I could have been third or perhaps even second. However I made a mistake in the first sector on my last run and as a result I lost some time which was a shame. The tyres were working well and I can’t see why that should not be the case for the race tomorrow if the conditions stay the same."
David Coulthard: "We can be quite encouraged by the fact that the gap to the competition is less than in previous races, but we are where we expected to be. I had a bit of oversteer which improved during the session, but it made it hard to really attack the corners. We hope the package will work well in race trim and I think the challenge will be to find a consistent balance as the race will be hard particularly on the rear tyres."
Denis Chevrier: "A useful day without any surprises. We experienced no technical problems throughout the three sessions, which meant we were able to complete preparations for both qualifying and the race. The most important things to note are the equal performance of our two cars, as well as the fact that we managed to confirm our status as fourth team at a circuit where the time gaps are traditionally small."
Mike Gascoyne: "Seventh and eighth are pretty much where we expected to be today. Jenson suffered from some oversteer early in the session, but we nevertheless managed to qualify in our usual positions. We still need to improve our package further in order to compete with the top three teams, but this solid qualifying performance should allow us to score points tomorrow."
Jenson Button: "It's fantastic to qualify seventh, and especially in France for Renault. I had a good session, even though I experienced a little understeer at the beginning, and then made a mistake on the final run by locking up into turn eight, which obviously meant I lost time. Tomorrow, I hope we can keep the tyres in good condition and compete for points in our home race."
Jarno Trulli: "I made the best I could of the session. We have been struggling with the balance of the car since the start of the weekend, and it still isn't quite right. I couldn't push to the maximum today as I didn't feel completely confident in the car on the limit. Tomorrow morning, we will have a lot of work to do in order to try and catch up some of the time we lost yesterday, but I still think that we will be capable of scoring points."
Niki Lauda: "I’m pleased on one hand and quite disappointed on the other. Eddie drove very well today and I cannot fault his performance. This is what we have been aiming for with the new aerodynamic package and to have made it into the top ten is just reward for everyone’s hard work. We must, however, be careful about getting too carried away. The Michelin tyres have the upper hand here and combined with the somewhat odd nature of this circuit, we must acknowledge that our performance is down to a combination of all these things. Pedro, however, suffered from several problems this afternoon, which simply didn’t do justice to what he was capable of. His first run was compromised by a hydraulic pressure loss and after switching him over to the T-car, we then discovered a problem with one of the front wheel sensors. Having corrected this, he was then sent on his way out only to discover a loss of power because of what we believe is an electrical problem. Until we get the car back, we will not know for certain. We really should have had both cars in the top ten today, but at least we are demonstrating clear signs of improvement. We understand this package better and in race trim tomorrow, we should be in reasonably good shape."
Eddie Irvine: "I’m obviously pleased with 9th place and very much looking forward to tomorrow’s race. I like this track and combined with our race package, I’d say we are in with an outside chance of a point tomorrow. Our three-day test in Monza last week was very helpful in understanding the new aero package better and I wish we had done more testing with it. Nonetheless, we have been reasonably quick here all weekend, but we must credit Michelin too for the tyre advantage they have brought here. This will inevitably flatter us a little, but there is no doubt that we have a better car. There are still some issues to address but it has come a long way since the beginning of the season. We went into the British Grand Prix with limited understanding of the new package and coupled with wet and cold conditions, we found it hard to extract the best from it. Magny-Cours, however, presents a very different set of circumstances and we will be looking to take full advantage of this tomorrow."
Pedro de la Rosa: "Given that Eddie has qualified in a superb 9th place, I am very disappointed with my qualifying session. There is very little to add to what Niki has already said. My race car developed a hydraulic pressure loss and even though the T-car was set-up for me, it developed a series of problems, which eventually prevented me from improving on my first timed lap. Given the improvements we have made to this car over the past couple of weeks, it is especially disappointing not to have taken full advantage today. I am, however, very encouraged by Eddie’s performance and we will now look at what can be done to compensate for this tomorrow. The car feels pretty good in race trim and some luck tomorrow would go quite some way towards making up for today’s difficult qualifying session."
Peter Sauber: "Our result today is okay, since we decided to go with Bridgestone's harder tyre compound. We knew this might impose a penalty in qualifying, but balanced that against the expectation of having an advantage in the race tomorrow. There are some times when your strategy cannot be dictated purely by grid position. There are only three cars in the top 10 on the same make of tyres, and the other two are the Ferraris. Thank you to both drivers for the strong performance they gave today."
Nick Heidfeld: "The car was much better than yesterday. I was a lot happier with the balance and stability. For each run this afternoon we made small changes, and progress. Unfortunately I had some traffic on my second run, but the last one was pretty good. I am very happy to be in the top 10 and to be the third fastest Bridgestone user."
Felipe Massa: "I think things were pretty good for me. The track was a lot hotter this afternoon, and we worked to improve the car with each run. I'm pleased that I was able to improve each time out as a result, and that the car was so consistent all through the session. We knew we might suffer a little on the harder tyres today, but I know that we have a good package for the race tomorrow so I think we'll be strong."
David Richards: "Today’s session was very much as anticipated and dominated by tyre performance. Honda provided our cars with the latest specification engine; Olivier used his just for Saturday whereas Jacques ran fewer revs so he could use his engine on Sunday as well. Both drivers noticed the benefit so this bodes well for the remaining races this season. As for tomorrow, we’re getting mixed reports about the weather and, from our point of view, a shower of rain would not be unwelcome."
Olivier Panis: "We had a good qualifying session today. We worked with the revised engine throughout the session and improved the car quite a bit during the hour, so the team did a great job. I pushed hard on the last run and, using all my experience, I was able to put in a good lap. When we compared the times we had gained a second between the first and last run. Our tyres aren't as competitive in qualifying at this circuit but we know that the Bridgestone tyres will perform better during the race, so we will have to see what tomorrow brings"
Jacques Villeneuve: "Honda have provided us with two of the latest evolution engines this weekend and Olivier and I have been working to different strategies. I didn't use mine in free practice this morning so I could keep it for qualifying and the race. As usual, we should be better off tomorrow and even a little extra bhp can make a difference at this circuit. We should also benefit when tyre degradation becomes a problem for other teams."
Gary Anderson: "That was disappointing as we were looking reasonable until the end. We decided to go a little bit early on the last run to avoid getting caught in traffic and it looks like it was the wrong decision. It would have been nice to start in the top ten but sometimes that’s the way it goes. Takuma did three laps all within a hundredth of a second of each other and he did a very commendable job. It’s a relief to know that Giancarlo is okay, as it was a big impact this morning. We think the front of the car hit a high kerb the lap before his front wing came off. He needs to take it easy for a few days."
Takuma Sato: "We thought temperatures would go up during the session so we decided to go out early. Each attack was very consistent with small improvements each time. But the midfield is very competitive and unfortunately I lost places in the last few minutes. Until then I was tenth so I’m a little bit disappointed, although I think I did all I could."
Giancarlo Fisichella: "I don’t remember what happened. I know I lost the front wing but I don’t know why. I feel alright, I just have a slight headache and some neck pain. The doctor told me it’s not possible for me to race because of the very big deceleration I experienced in the accident, so I’m going to rest in preparation for Hockenheim."
Ange Pasquali: "Clearly it was not our best qualifying result of this year, but in terms of the work done on the car since yesterday we have made a big progression. It was an interesting session for us but there is still some work to do. We have been able to save one set of new tyres for tomorrow, which I hope will pay off somehow."
Mika Salo: "Obviously I am not happy about my position, but I think that we got the best out of the car as it is at the moment. I have been having traction problems with the car since the first session yesterday, which have been improving, but we have not yet been able to find a complete solution."
Allan McNish: "A disappointing session. I honestly thought we would be a little bit more competitive in qualifying trim, but overall that was about the limit of where the car has been all weekend. On a more positive note, we worked mainly on race set-up in the free practice sessions, so I think we will have a better handling car for the race tomorrow."Paul Stoddart: "This has been a reasonable day’s performance from the KL Minardi Asiatech team with our drivers in 18th and 19th positions for tomorrow’s race. Mark suffered a mechanical problem with his race car during qualifying that forced him to use the spare car, which was not completely set up for him. After his second run, it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to improve on his time, so rather than waste additional sets of tyres, we decided to save them for tomorrow’s race. Alex steadily improved his performance on each of his qualifying runs and completed the session with a respectable time. The team now looks forward to tomorrow’s French Grand Prix."
Mark Webber: "All in all, it has been a frustrating day. I didn’t get any timed laps in the first practice session this morning because of a small hydraulic problem. We recovered well in the second session, though, and collected some useful data. We then put everything on the car ready for qualifying. The first run of the afternoon worked well and we were happy in the knowledge that we had a good ‘banker’ in our back pocket. Unfortunately, on the ‘in’ lap from that run, a fuel pressure problem cropped up. I then did one run in the spare car, although it was to a different specification compared with the race car. That proved to be my last run, but we’ll be back tomorrow."
Alex Yoong: "My car was suffering from understeer throughout qualifying, and then a fuel delivery problem cost me time on the final two runs. On the positive side, it was good to get in lots of laps this morning. It also gave us the chance to experiment a bit with the car and, as a result, we learned one or two useful things. There’s no doubt in my mind we could have been a lot quicker today, but ultimately I’m glad to have qualified and pleased to be in tomorrow’s race."
Tom Walkinshaw: “Unfortunately we were unable to qualify either car today. Our priority has to be to get this team back on its feet and in a position where we can build a positive future. It’s sad but we’ll go home and prepare for Hockenheim.”