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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
Ron Dennis: "An interesting first day. Let’s hope we can maintain the momentum for the rest of the weekend."
Norbert Haug: "A positive beginning to the last Grand Prix weekend of the year. Quite good for the first day."
Kimi Raikkonen: "Everything went well today, and we spent both sessions working on the set up according to our pre-determined programme. Suzuka is a tricky circuit as you don’t have very large run off areas, and if you loose control you are almost bound to damage the car. Tomorrow is a different day and as always we will do our best and see what happens. We still have some way to go and I’m confident that we can optimise our package even further."
David Coulthard: "We are encouraged by our performance today with both types of Michelin tyres working well. Unfortunately both my comparison runs were spoilt by traffic in the last sector. During the latter part of the first session, my car developed a hydraulics problem, which necessitated an engine change. As a result I didn’t do as many laps as I would have liked, but the team did a great job in getting everything ready for the second session."
Jean Todt: "The Japanese Grand Prix is a very important race for us and we are keen to do well in what is the home event for Bridgestone and also their one hundredth Formula 1 race. The Suzuka track is very demanding, both for the car and the driver. In the first hour of practice, we were able to work on the car set-up. In the second part, Schumacher’s car developed a hydraulic problem which could not be fixed in the time, which meant Michael spent nearly the whole session in the pits. Rubens however was able to run continuously, doing the usual job of comparing the two types of tyre available. We expect to be competitive in tomorrow’s qualifying session. We will be aiming for an all-red front row. That is a more ambitious target than usual, because we would like to do it as a present for our good friends at Bridgestone and our many fans in Japan."
Luca Baldisserri: "As usual, Suzuka is quite difficult for tyres so it is very important to make sure that you have a good programme on Friday to try both specifications. Unfortunately, a hydraulic problem with Michael’s car meant he could hardly run in the second session so we concentrated on Rubens. Again, he tried both tyres. On the first run he went wide over the kerbs so we stopped the run to check the car. The last run was quite promising - he did seven laps which has given us some useful information about the tyres."
Rubens Barrichello: "The day went reasonably well and we worked on the usual comparison between the two types of tyre available, accumulating data which will be useful when it comes to making the final choice tomorrow morning. The track has not got enough rubber down on it yet, so the lap times mean very little, but I am happy with the work we have done in the two hours of free practice especially in terms of balancing the car. I am confident for qualifying and also for Sunday’s race."
Michael Schumacher: "The morning part of the session went well as we worked on our usual Friday programme. However, this afternoon, I hardly did any laps, as my car developed a problem with the hydraulic system. We will now have to analyse exactly what caused it, but I am not concerned about this for tomorrow’s qualifying session as I am sure we will be competitive, even if the gap between us and the non-Bridgestone teams seems a bit closer than usual. The track is a bit slippery at the moment, but that is normal here on the first day."
Sam Michael: "A normal Friday programme working on race set-up. We made some progress during the day as we made some big changes to the car and the car responded well. The tyre choice will be difficult as Michelin have brought two good compounds here so we have to analyse the data later on and see which tyre is better. All in all we are happy with today’s performance."
Mario Thiessen: "With 44 and 38 laps both the drivers have completed a very extensive programme. It is a pity that Juan Pablo had a crash in the last five minutes. As usual on a Friday we focused today on the car set-up for this track. Both the engines ran trouble free in both sessions."
Juan Pablo Montoya: "It was a smooth session if it hadn’t been for the last part of it. In the last minutes I had a bad crash which damaged my car quite heavily. I went on the throttle like always and I thought I was going to make the corner fine but instead I went over the sharp part of the kerb and lost the car. The impact was hard and I am still a bit sore. With regards to the balance of my car there’s still room for improvement."
Ralf Schumacher: "Suzuka is a great track and I drive here with great pleasure. I had a good free practice session where we tried all that was scheduled and we have also made some progress with regards to the tyre choice. I am quite happy with the balance of my car."
Niki Lauda: "Not an easy circuit to adjust to and as we saw, several drivers suffered from big accidents today. The circuit was quite slippery during the first session but improved considerably over the course of the two sessions. Since we made the significant modifications to the Jaguar R3 at Spa, this is the first real high downforce circuit we have raced at and given the issues we have suffered all year with a lack of downforce, we are expecting a tough weekend ahead at Suzuka. It is always difficult to make comparisons with other teams after Friday Free Practice sessions because of differences in fuel load and tyres. In view of this, the times from today mean very little, relatively speaking. The fuel effect is quite high at this circuit and until the qualifying hour ends tomorrow, it is impossible to say where we are going to start Sunday’s race from. Consolidating the team’s sixth place in the championship is the target for the weekend and with that in mind, we must aim to beat the Honda-powered teams. Overtaking is far from easy at Suzuka and subsequently, qualifying will take on an even bigger significance for us tomorrow."
Eddie Irvine: "The lap times look impressive but I think we’re in for a hard weekend at this circuit. The first session was quite tough, particularly with a lack of rear grip. I was losing time in places that I normally wouldn’t expect to, but the team made some positive changes to the car in time for the second session. Combined with the better grip levels on track, the car felt much better during the second session, albeit with some brake issues which we are examining. Because of Montoya’s crash in the second session, I missed out on completing my tyre work – something we’ll address tomorrow morning during warm-up. Qualifying well is so important at Suzuka because of the overtaking difficulties and from looking at today’s lap times, I think our group is going to be very tight indeed."
Pedro de la Rosa: "The track was very ‘green’ to begin with and by the beginning of the second session, the car felt completely different. I think everyone was struggling with grip levels in session one but after some set-up changes to the car, the handling and grip improved significantly. What began as a very oversteer-biased car soon turned into something with more rear grip and eventually, biased towards understeer. We achieved everything we had planned to and overall, I am satisfied with today’s performance. The track will undoubtedly be very different tomorrow and it is difficult to predict our qualifying position. Outside of the top three teams, the group seems very closely bunched-up and I think we’re in for a very tight qualifying hour tomorrow."
Denis Chevrier: "We had a trouble-free Friday session. We made slight adjustments on the mapping and calibration of the engines. In respect to the competitors, I think we seem to be in reasonable shape, even though it's difficult to know the amount of fuel they have. We are quite confident for tomorrow, as we will have a new spec of engine, which is a better qualifying engine than the one we had in Indianapolis."
Pat Symonds: "Today we concentrated entirely on our race set-up, evaluating two types of tyres. Although the result of the comparison was very close, we feel we now know which way to go. In addition to the routine set-up work, even at this late stage of the season, we have been able to evaluate changes to the car specifications, with very satisfactory results."
Jarno Trulli: "It was a good first day for us. The session was productive as we tried different car set-ups and tyre comparisons and we were able to complete our programme without encountering any problems. Tomorrow, we will have to try and get closer to the top teams. I am quite optimistic because we have a new qualifying engine and we seem to be going in the right direction with the car set-up."
Jenson Button: "A normal day for me. We worked on tyre evaluation and I was able to run quite a lot of laps. Now we need to make few adjustments to the car and hopefully tomorrow we will be in a position to qualify nearer to the leaders."
Gary Anderson: "There were no real problems for us today, which is good. We worked on fuel loads for the race and tyre durability and we’re pretty happy. Takuma had a spin on the corner just before the underpass; he recovered well, but flat-spotted the tyres so he didn’t get a long enough run on one of the types. Giancarlo got a reasonable run on them however, so it was no major drama. The car is a little bit nervous and the drivers would like it to be more comfortable to drive through the S bends, so we’ve got a bit of work to get a more stable balance."
Giancarlo Fisichella: "Today was quite good and I am in the top ten, which is our target for tomorrow. The car looks okay, although we have got some adjustments to make on the set-up. But we know the direction so I’m confident about our chances in qualifying."
Takuma Sato: "Not bad. It’s always nice to have a run in front of a big crowd and the massive support here is very good. The car is working okay but Suzuka is so technically challenging for the tyres and chassis set-up, it’s difficult to get the balance. We found a decent set-up today and we’ll carry on the work tomorrow."
Ange Pasquali: "We have not quite managed our tyre comparison on both cars. Mika was held up by traffic on his second set of tyres, but we have been able to understand quite a lot and I think we are going in a good direction with car set-up. We have to continue this tomorrow morning and optimise the car for qualifying. It will be very important to choose the correct tyre compound for the weekend - I think that will be the key to being competitive or not in the race."
Mika Salo: "No major problems today. The car is working quite fine and we concentrated on preparations for the race, as usual for a Friday - car set-up, tyres and tyre pressures. We did quite a lot of laps, doing long runs to see the effects on the tyres and things seem quite good. It's a bit surprising. We had some difficulties when we tested here last year and things went better than I expected today."
Allan McNish: "It's been quite a usual Friday session, trying to get a good balance on the car and trying to work out what to do on tyre choice. I think Michelin have brought a tyre that works well on our car and gives a good balance. We have to work on variable grip levels around the track and we had some understeer in places, but I am sure that is curable before tomorrow's sessions."
Peter Sauber: "Both SAUBER PETRONAS C21s ran reliably today, and we were able to do plenty of preparation for the race."
Felipe Massa: "I'm very pleased to be back at a Grand Prix, and I'm quite happy with today's performance. The car had a good balance, but I lost some time with a spark plug problem. Once that was fixed I ran into traffic towards the end of the afternoon session and I also made some mistakes, so I know I can go a lot quicker. I love this circuit! It's even better than I expected. Lots of technical corners and lots of fast ones. It's better than Spa, no question, much more of a challenge."
Nick Heidfeld: "This will be my 50th GP, and Suzuka is my favourite circuit, but as you can see from the positions I'm not very happy with today. I was struggling to find a decent balance all the time. On old tyres I had oversteer, whereas new ones gave me understeer."
David Richards: "What can one say about a weekend that starts like this? It can only get better. The fact that neither driver got much running clearly reflects in the times and I’m quite confident that, given a clear run tomorrow morning, things will improve significantly."
Olivier Panis: "I lost a lot of time in the morning session, unfortunately due to my mistake. I slowed down to pick my way around the debris from Jacques’ car and to check he wasn’t hurt. I lost concentration and stalled the car so I’m sorry for the team because of that. I can’t believe it! We tried many different things this afternoon and we worked towards the race configuration but we were struggling for grip and we’re certainly not quick enough. I feel that we still have a lot of potential to improve the car so we have a lot of work to do tonight to get the best from the package."
Jacques Villeneuve: "The car seemed to lose traction on the exit from Spoon Curve and I hit the kerb, lost control then spun the car into the barrier. It was quite a heavy impact but I’m fine. The car was quite badly damaged though so the guys did a fantastic job to get it ready in time to get any more running today. Having said that, I only managed 4 timed laps and 11 laps in total so we’ve done very little work on our race set-up. The engineers did a lot of work during the downtime while the car was being repaired using Olivier’s data but we’re too slow and we have a lot of catching up to do. We have a lot of work ahead of us this evening."Paul Stoddart: "After a strong performance from both KL Minardi Asiatech drivers in today’s two practice sessions, sadly a gearbox oil fire on Alex’s car resulted in a large amount of fire retardant dust infiltrating our garages, and in particular, our computer equipment. While every attempt will be made to clean everything, sadly, the dust managed to get into every nook and cranny. That aside, the performance of the cars today, and in particular that of the tyres, indicates there is good reason for the team to look forward to a competitive weekend here at Suzuka."
Mark Webber: "It was pretty good for us today. We got through our programme, tested both types of tyre and gathered some useful data for tomorrow’s running. We will need to take a good look at what’s best for us in terms of tyres and things like wing levels, but I really enjoyed tackling this circuit for the first time in a Formula One car, and am now looking forward to tomorrow."
Alex Yoong: "It generally went okay today. We were running through our normal Friday programme and then we had a problem with the gearbox, which forced us to stop before we were able to do our new-tyre runs. That was a bit frustrating, as we’re going to have to rely on Mark’s data to choose which tyre to run, but I’m sure we’ll be able to make the correct decision and have a productive day tomorrow."