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2003 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix
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What the teams and drivers said - Friday
Ferrari ( Rubens Barrichello - 1st, Michael Schumacher - 4th )
Jean Todt: �We can certainly say this was not the usual Friday and not just because it was the first day of a new season. It was also the first time we have come up against the new rules which provide for one hour of free practice, after which each driver gets just one timed lap to establish the order for Saturday afternoon's qualifying. While today's times are all relative, we can nevertheless say that the F2002 and the Bridgestone tyres appear to be pretty competitive.�
Ross Brawn: �It is difficult to draw an accurate conclusion from the session as we were first on the track and especially for Michael, it was quite dusty, which affected his time. Rubens did a super job. We need to get used to the new procedure, but today is not so critical and we will see what happens tomorrow. With Michael starting seventeenth and Rubens last, we should be able to do a good job. Both drivers chose the same tyre, but Michael had some difficulty getting it to work as the first man out. The tyres worked well in the morning and I am confident we have a good race tyre.�
Rubens Barrichello: �This was a very good day under the new rules and I am happy with the way things went. This morning we worked on tyre choice and even if we did not have much running time on a clean track, I was optimistic for the afternoon. Being quickest on the first day of the season is a morale booster, even if it does not mean much. Tomorrow we will have to see what is the right strategy, but I am reasonably confident of going well.�
Michael Schumacher: �I felt a bit like a road-sweeping machine for all the other cars, cleaning the track, as I picked up all the dirt. It is obviously a disadvantage to be first on the road. In the end, Rubens did a very good lap and I did not. But tomorrow's session is the important one. It is too early for me to give an opinion on the new timetable for the weekend. I would have to wait for the end of this weekend to comment. But I can say I found it a bit strange doing one lap and then having to wait so long to find out what position I had.�
McLaren ( Kimi Raikkonen - 2nd, David Coulthard - 6th )
Ron Dennis: "An uneventful first day's qualifying which only the TV viewers and Albert Park spectators can judge. From our point of view the challenge will be to get the strategy right for tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen: "During Free Practice this morning I went wide at Whitford corner and spun on the grass. I just managed to avoid the wall but damaged the floor of the car, which then had to be changed. During qualifying I went a bit wide coming into the first corner but apart from that I'm happy. The new format hasn't really changed the way I approach qualifying, as previously we also had to focus on getting things right for one lap - we just had more runs."
David Coulthard: "At the end of the Free Practice my fuel pump broke, but the team did a great job in getting the car ready in time for qualifying. I was struggling a bit with the balance of the car and because of the new format we didn't have the chance to fully optimise our performance. However our target was to start tomorrow's qualifying from the last six so that has been achieved."
BAR ( Jacques Villeneuve - 3rd, Jenson Button - 5th )
David Richards: "This was just the start to the season we needed. Everyone rallied around to get the cars ready for qualifying and the drivers did a superb job, especially when you consider how little preparation time they had."
Shuhei Nakamoto: "All in all we've had a hell of a day! I am delighted that we've managed to get both cars into the top five. Both drivers did a great job with the pressure of the new single lap regulations on them, particularly as they hadn't had much time in the car this morning. The first session was massively disappointing but the team rallied round to change the engine on Jenson's car and prepare the spare car for Jacques. We've obviously had a look at the engines from the first session and it looks like the same problem occurred on both engines. We seem to have a bad batch of parts in the camshaft area so we will analyse further tonight to solve the problem."
Jacques Villeneuve: "I'm really surprised with 3rd because we did hardly any running or set-up work this morning. I only completed two laps so I didn't know where to be on the race track, where to brake. I had to switch to the T-car and I thought that was it for the day; I thought we'd be qualifying 15th or something. Obviously I know the track but when you haven't done any set-up work there are no reference points. At the beginning of the first two corners I wasn't as quick as I could have been. I guess it all depends on how you warm your tyres up and the tyres held up quite well so the last sector was good. It's been a long time since I was this far up the grid and although today wasn't final qualifying, it was easy to see who was quick and who wasn't. It won't be as easy to see that tomorrow with people running different fuel levels. The guys did a fantastic job and it's a good result for the team."
Jenson Button: "After this morning's practice I'm delighted with 5th and it's a great team result. The guys did a fantastic job. Today was the first running I've done in this car on low fuel so it's great to see that we're running up there with the quicker guys. I had a slow middle sector and then suffered with understeer in the final corner but generally the car felt great. I just wish these were our final qualifying positions! That would be nice."
Renault ( Fernando Alonso - 7th, Jarno Trulli - 9th )
Pat Symonds: "Our free practice time this morning was quite short due to the fact that we had also to perform a scheduled engine change, which made everything quite difficult. However, this afternoon we got out and managed to make some decisions on tyres, as the track temperature increased. Qualifying went very smoothly under the new procedures and our position is about where we expected to be in terms of competitiveness."
Fernando Alonso: "I cannot describe the great feeling I had today coming back to proper racing, after 18 months! This first day went extremely well, I feel confident in the potential of the car and very satisfied with the way the team has been working with me."
Jarno Trulli: "Overall a positive Friday session for me. This afternoon, as the track conditions improved, the cars' positions kept changing. As far I am concerned, my placement is what was expected and I am confident I can improve tomorrow, when it really matters."
Toyota ( Olivier Panis - 8th, Cristiano da Matta - 11th )
Gustav Brunner: "To be 8th and 11th in the opening session of the weekend is quite a good result for us. We have had no doubts about the clear ability of our drivers, Olivier and Cristiano, and they did not let us down today. Both did a good, solid job and we remain confident and hopeful for the rest of the weekend. Particularly promising was the fact that Olivier and Cristiano set the best and third best times in the middle sector."
Olivier Panis: "We had some
problems in free practice this morning, so we changed the set-up of the
car a lot and I was quite pleased with the performance of the car in the
session; it is very promising. I had some understeer on the first corner
of my fast lap, which lost me some time, but I am very happy for the team
that we see this potential. We now have a lot of work to do tonight before
the practice and qualifying tomorrow."
Williams ( Juan Pablo Montoya - 10th, Ralf Schumacher - 16th )
Sam Michael: "These are obviously disappointing positions for the first qualifying. We now have a picture of where we are and will work hard to improve the performance of the car for tomorrow's final qualifying and the race. The new format for qualifying worked fine and our procedures for operating to this new system proved to be okay."
Gerhard Berger: "I found the first qualifying session very exciting. Due to the new rules a completely new picture comes up after all the years of routine. But I think everybody will get used to the new scenario quickly. It is great if one can concentrate on observing a car for a full lap. The procedure went well, there was nothing wrong with it except our lap times. Ferrari and McLaren were performing as expected, B.A.R was clearly better. And we are where we have been in the early tests, too far behind."
Juan Pablo Montoya: "I cannot complain about anything in particular on my car as I had a pretty decent balance, even if I lost some time in a couple of corners. We took a conservative approach to today's qualifying but nonetheless we're a bit surprised to end up where we are."
Ralf Schumacher: "I just lost too much time in the first sector, I really got it wrong there. That was the main problem. In slow corners my car was understeering quite badly. If I look at the qualifying in general, I can see a lot of hard work for us."
Sauber ( Nick Heidfeld - 12th, Heinz Harald Frentzen - 13th )
Peter Sauber: "The new qualifying mode gave us all a very positive experience today. It ran smoothly, gave the crowd a good show, and was good for Formula One. We all now appreciate just how little time it leaves for preparation however, and we have learned now how best to organise ourselves for the future."
Nick Heidfeld: "I lost some time this morning with a few electronic problems, including a false alarm with the dashboard, and with things the way they are now any loss of time is going to hurt you. Taking that into account, I was pretty happy with the way things went this afternoon. I made a couple of little mistakes, but the balance of the car was better and overall I really enjoyed the single-lap qualifying."
Heinz Harald Frentzen: "When we warmed the cars up this morning the team discovered an electronic problem on my initial chassis, C22-02, so I switched to the spare car, 03. This afternoon that car was a little bit oversteery and that was why I had that wobble at the end of the first sector. For sure it cost me a little bit of time. But qualifying was okay for me. It's important to put on a good show for the people, and I think we did that."
Jordan ( Giancarlo Fisichella - 14th, Ralph Firman - 17th )
"Generally it was ok, I am not too disappointed. I think we should
have done a little bit better, Giancarlo lost some time in T2, perhaps two
or three tenths which cost us three or four places. I feel we could have
nipped into the top ten. Ralph made a little mistake on the last sector
and could have been a little bit better, but you only have a one lap hit
so it's pretty unforgiving. The important thing is the race on Sunday."
Jaguar ( Mark Webber - 15th, Antonio Pizzonia - 19th )
Dr. Mark Gillan: "Today was
very busy for us in terms of on-track activity. We started the morning by
running through our planned testing programme, with particular emphasis on
tyre comparisons and general set-up. Mark completed 40 laps with no
issues, while Antonio managed 16 laps. This was down to the fact that Mark
was undertaking laps in the T-car as well as his race car. We then used
the Free Practice to focus our efforts on finding an optimum set-up for
qualifying and in Antonio's case, help him better understand the nature
and demands of a circuit he has never raced on.
Antonio Pizzonia: "It would have been significantly easier today had I known the track. Because the T-car was set-up for Mark during the two-hour testing, my track time was limited because of the work the team was undertaking on my race car. From having had a handful of familiarisation laps straight into qualifying was not easy and combined with my mistakes, the final lap time could have been much better -- no doubt. I suppose it's far better to make mistakes at this stage of my F1 career than later and given how positive I feel about the Jaguar R4's potential, today's issues are really down to me -- not the machinery."
Minardi ( Jos Verstappen - 18th, Justin Wilson - 20th )Paul Stoddart: �Today saw the opening of European Minardi Cosworth's 2003 challenge at what is effectively the team's 'home' Grand Prix, here in Melbourne. With all the politics of the winter hopefully behind us, it was great to get out on the Albert Park circuit. The decision to adopt the Friday testing option has already paid dividends for European Minardi, as we were able to complete a useful day's technical programme, which we could not have done without the extra two hours of running time this morning.
At 2pm today, we saw for the first time the new 'one-shot' session to determine tomorrow's qualifying order. It certainly did live up to expectations and has provided us with a mixed order for tomorrow's all-important, final qualifying session. Some teams have profited, while others have not, but it has done exactly what it was meant to do - make Formula One exciting again. Following Justin's F1 debut and Jos's return to the sport today, I must say how impressed I am by European Minardi's driver line-up this year, both guys putting in a sterling effort. It was also particularly pleasing to see how much we have improved our lap times compared with last year. We now look forward to an interesting final qualifying session tomorrow."
Jos Verstappen: �To me, it was really exciting to do the qualifying session like this, and I think everybody enjoys it. This is something new to all of us. I did a reasonable lap time - there wasn't a lot more there today - but then the car stopped on the track on the slowing-down lap because of a small technical issue. Fortunately, it is something we can easily fix.�Justin Wilson: �It was not too bad a time. It could have been a bit better, but at the end of the day, it's still a case of becoming familiar with everything. Also, getting used to the way the car handles with a light fuel load is a new experience. It all just takes a bit of adjusting to, but I'm reasonably happy.�