2003 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix
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What the teams and drivers said - Saturday
Jean Todt: “Excitement, tension and joy are the words which best sum up this Saturday in Melbourne. Today we got a better insight into the effects of the new sporting regulations: the changing of components after free practice, a very hectic 15 minute warm-up and everything played out over just one lap. The final result is tempered by the uncertainty concerning fuel levels for each driver, which will be those on-board for the start of tomorrow's race. That aside, the F2002 again gave satisfaction with an all-red front row for the opening race of the season. Once again Bridgestone has done a great job on the tyre side, while Shell has worked hard to provide us with the very best products. Now, we must check the cars, within the limits set out by the new rules, in order to be ready for the race, where we will get a true picture of the pecking order. As usual, reliability will be a key factor.”
Ross Brawn: “I am a bit surprised at the size of the gap between us and the competition. Of course, it could be the case that we had taken on less fuel than them. We will therefore have to wait until tomorrow to see where everyone really stands. Naturally I am delighted to have our cars on the front row. Our drivers did a really good job. The tyres performed better today, probably because the surface provided more grip. We opted for a tyre which might not have been quite so quick over a single lap, but is a safer choice for the race.”
Michael Schumacher: “Good teamwork today, as after my problems in the morning, I took Rubens's settings for the afternoon. Qualifying went well, but the new timetable makes life tougher for the team, as, after the warm-up you have just 15 minutes to get ready for the qualifying and the race. I'm not complaining as it is the same for everyone. From my point of view in the cockpit, it is the same as always with the same level of concentration required. My lap was spot on with no margin to push more. It seems to be a tradition that I go off here! Luckily, the run-off area at that corner has been improved for this year and the team was able to repair the car without any problem.”
Rubens Barrichello: “Today's qualifying was the first time this weekend I have had a problem. I was on a good lap when I saw the oil/debris flags after Turn 6. With the new rules, you are supposed to be alone on the track, so I was not sure what to do and I lost concentration. Kimi's car was on the correct side of the track but there were bits of car on the road. I am not complaining, but I could have done a better time. Maybe we need to look at the rules concerning this type of situation. From a driving point of view I think this new qualifying is less exciting for the drivers because you cannot push as hard as in the past, because of the increased fuel levels which give you a lot of oversteer or understeer. But I think the new system might be more exciting for the spectators.”
Sam Michael: "Well, it could have been a lot worse. But it is difficult to say on what position you really are as you do not know how much fuel everybody has taken for qualifying. I think it will turn out tomorrow that we are on a similar fuel level as Ferrari. Obviously we are still quite away from them. We will do our very best to improve our performance."
Mario Thiessen: "We are pleased with the result. This second qualifying went a lot better for our team than the first session on Friday. In today's free practice we managed to improve the set up of the cars. Juan Pablo made the most out of it, for Ralf it did not turn out that well. We feel well prepared for the race, even though it is difficult to say with how much fuel the other teams were running today. This we will not know before the first pit stops in the race and I would bet we will see a couple of surprises. I think the single lap qualifying is positive for Formula One, but the prohibition of refuelling does lead to a distorted impression."
Juan Pablo Montoya: "I think it went pretty well, the car was working good. In the warm up I went off three times in the same place because the car was quite difficult to drive and different from what I had in practice as we had made a few changes. I was very annoyed about it but at the end of the day it wasn't that bad. It was a decent and reliable car and when I went to push it behaved pretty well. I lost a bit of time in turn one because I went off twice there earlier and you don't want to put the car on the grass in qualifying! But apart from that I seem to have put a reasonably good lap together."
Ralf Schumacher: "I made a mistake in the first sector which cost me a few tenths of a second. Today I have had to pay the price for my performance on Friday as this caused my early starting time when the track was not in its best condition. I am not too worried about the two Sauber cars in front of me, I think they can be sorted out in the race."
Peter Sauber: "Both Heinz Harald and Nick did a good job today and both were satisfied with the performance of the SAUBER PETRONAS C22. As this is the first time that the new mode of qualifying has been used it will be exciting to see whether we have made the right decisions for the race. On today's result, we are satisfied that our strategy is working well."
Heinz Harald Frentzen: "My car was better balanced today, and overall I'm pretty happy. I couldn't get the second chicane quite right, but everywhere else the car felt really good. I won't know just how good though, until after the race!."
Nick Heidfeld: "I pushed the car to the limit without going off. It was a good lap, not perfect, but I am reasonably happy taking into account the track time that we've lost so far this weekend. The balance of the car was good and I got the most out of it."
Keizo Takahashi: "A very satisfying result for the entire Panasonic Toyota Racing team. Olivier made a good lap so we are very happy and it is our best qualifying result in only the first race of our second season in F1. We made a different strategy for both drivers today, and Cristiano also did a good job in difficult circumstances. The race will certainly be interesting tomorrow."
Olivier Panis: "I am really happy about the
performance of the car and its nice to be up the front end of the grid in
my race debut for the team. I think we did a good job this morning to
compare the Michelin tyres and I think we made a good choice. Now we have
to wait until tomorrow to see how we go in the race. Everybody worked
really hard and at the end of the day this was a positive qualifying, so I
would like to thank every single member of the team here and in Cologne."
David Richards: "It has been a hard weekend for the team and we are satisfied with this performance. It's tough to predict what other teams will do tomorrow but we should be able to challenge for a top three finish."
Geoff Willis: "It has been very interesting. It's a little difficult to read what has gone on but we are reasonably pleased. We've achieved our target lap times and have a good race strategy. The rules do not allow us to touch the cars before the start so we hope all our hard preparation work pays off. From these grid positions we look in good shape for the race."
Shuhei Nakamoto: "Having started the weekend with a troubled session I consider today's result to be very good. The team did a great job preparing the cars in time and the drivers pushed hard to secure sixth and eighth on the grid. Obviously we don't know what strategy all the other teams are on for the race, but starting from the third and fourth row puts us in a strong position. As a counter measure to yesterday morning's problem both drivers are using the engine we ran for the majority our winter test programme."
Jacques Villeneuve: "It will be good to start the race in sixth. We have adopted a realistic race strategy and should be strong tomorrow. I'm a little disappointed with today's lap, because it wasn't very special, and we obviously have to keep an eye on reliability. I can still fight for a podium finish, however, and that's what I'll be trying to do."
Jenson Button: "The different strategic options make it hard for us to know where we stand compared with everyone else, but it's good to be starting so far up the grid. The car was working very well this morning, although the wind picked up shortly before qualifying and suddenly the handling became a bit twitchier. We are starting from a points-scoring position and I feel very confident for the race."
Mike Gascoyne: "A very disappointing qualifying session today after our drivers made mistakes on their laps, costing us what should have been a possible second row position for both of them on the starting grid. Despite of that, we have been very quick all weekend, we believe we have a good strategy and I am confident we will be competitive for tomorrow's race."
Denis Chevrier : "A trouble free qualifying session from the engine point of view, however we are rather disappointed that neither car could finish a bit higher on the grid. I guess it's a frustration which stems from this single-lap new format, which is something we will have to get used to. Anyway, after a very competitive weekend so far, we remain hopeful for tomorrow's race."
Fernando Alonso: "Overall I am satisfied with my very first qualifying session. We do not know what fuel load the other teams had but we are quite happy with our choice of strategy. I am sure we will have an interesting race tomorrow and I am looking forward to it."
Jarno Trulli: "This was a strange qualifying for me since the car, which had been very well balanced all weekend, in this session had huge Understeering. Too bad, I expected a better result today but nevertheless I am optimistic for tomorrow, because the team has done a good job and I think we have taken the right decisions in terms of race strategy."
Ron Dennis: "As we knew before the start of the one timed lap qualifying only error free runs would give the drivers competitive grid positions. After all our testing we know what the car is capable of and therefore it's understandably very frustrating to be starting from such poor grid positions. However it's a long race and with good teamwork we can still achieve respectable finishes."
Norbert Haug: "Kimi was on his way to a possible first or second row grid position until he had a moment in the third sector. So we know that we can do better lap times in the race than our grid positions reflect. We now have to focus on tomorrow."
David Coulthard: "Not the best start to the season. During the second practice session I suffered a puncture to the right rear tyre at turn one. I tried to make my way back to the pits but on the way the fuel pump failed just by the entry to the pitlane and we decided to commence our race preparation. The team did a great job in making the necessary repairs in time for warm-up and qualifying. On my flying lap I ran a bit wide in the first corner and with only one run there is no room for the slightest error."
Kimi Raikkonen: "Today's practice and qualifying was a real nightmare. I went off at Turn five in the first practice session and hit the wall sideways damaging the car. As a result I was unable to participate in second practice and had to use the spare-car for the warm-up and qualifying ? and as a result of the new regulations I will be using the spare car for tomorrow's race. Unfortunately I had another moment in the third sector of my qualifying lap and went on the dirt which consequently damaged my left rear tyre and I was unable to make it back to the garage."
"We will have no idea until tomorrow where we really are compared to
the other teams. We have done what we think is the best thing for the
race. There have been a few surprises around the grid, for example you
find McLaren 11th and 15th but then see an all-Ferrari front row. We'll
just have to watch who pits first tomorrow and see what happens after
that. We have done the best we can for our drivers, their way of driving
and worked to find the best way to get a good result in the race. As such
we have sacrificed today."
Giancarlo Fisichella: "My lap was ok but we can see that there is quite a lot of work to do on the car in order to achieve our goal of qualifying inside the top ten. But it's also impossible to know what fuel loads other teams are running, so we will have to wait and see. We have worked hard to find a balance and set-up for the race and I just have to hope that we can make best use of the strategy we have planned for tomorrow."
Ralph Firman: "I got a good lap but the most important thing is I was able to get a feel for the car in preparation for tomorrow. It has a little bit of understeer but I think the balance is fine. We've done a lot of work so far this weekend and I feel pretty good about our preparations for the race. I am really looking forward to it and my objective will be to drive the best race I can and bring the car home."
Dr Mark Gillan: "A pleasing qualifying session
and good performances from both drivers today. It goes without saying but
each team ran their cars today in accordance to their race strategies
tomorrow and with that in mind, there is still a huge degree of
uncertainty as to where we really sit relative to our competition.
Nonetheless, we are satisfied with the way our build-up has gone although
Antonio could have done with more track time going into the race. This has
undoubtedly made life a little more difficult for our rookie driver. The
gap between the midfield teams is very small indeed and how it pans out in
the race is anyone's guess right now. We will continue doing our homework
this evening in an effort to fine-tune our planned strategy but at this
stage, we are happy with the performance of both cars and drivers."
Antonio Pizzonia: "I lost valuable track time this morning because of an issue with the brakes and in addition to the relatively short track time I had yesterday, my familiarisation of this Albert Park circuit could be better. My qualifying lap was clean and I didn't make any mistakes although it is difficult to know how hard you can push the car at a circuit you are completely new to. Given the significantly heavier fuel loads on-board, the lap times today will not be truly understood until tomorrow's race gets underway. It is extremely difficult to know what anyone else is doing strategy-wise and subsequently, it is impossible to know where exactly we stack up in the order. The planned programme we had in place has been achieved and I am now focusing my efforts on being fully prepared for my first ever Grand Prix."
Paul Stoddart: “Today's qualifying session
for the European Minardi Cosworth team was all about strategy. With limited
testing -- indeed, only one session for each car prior to Melbourne -- and the
sort of reliability issues that are to be expected without the benefit of a
winter testing programme, the decision was taken today to start both Minardis
from the back of the grid for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix.
Jos Verstappen: “We elected not to complete our run on purpose this afternoon. It was a strategic call, and I think a very good one. By not finishing, we start from the back of the grid, but it also means we can continue to work on the cars tonight. We will therefore have the benefit of adjusting the cars to whatever the conditions may be tomorrow.”
Justin Wilson: “It is a strategy we chose to follow. We knew the likelihood was that we would qualify toward the back of the grid anyway, so we concentrated this morning instead on getting a better balance in the chassis with our tyres. We made progress in that area, so we'll see tomorrow how our strategy works out. All in all, an interesting day.”