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2003 French Grand Prix 
What the teams and drivers said - Friday  

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Reports & Results

What the teams and drivers said - Friday

Minardi ( Jos Verstappen - 1st, Justin Wilson - 2nd - Time disallowed )

Paul Stoddart: "What a fantastic day! It doesn't get much better than this. It was a brave decision to go on to dry tyres, and it took absolutely 100 per cent effort from both drivers, which is exactly what they gave. It resulted in the most momentous outcome in Minardi's qualifying history.
Sadly, it appears that in our haste to change Justin's set-up for the drying track conditions, the boys neglected to take full account of the difference in weight between the wet and dry tyres. As everyone is aware, weights are checked at the end of all qualifying sessions, and Minardi never has, and never would, knowingly allow a car to run underweight. We therefore fully respect the FIA's decision on this matter, and the fact is, Justin will always know he crossed the line in P2 at the end of this memorable qualifying session."

Jos Verstappen: "It was a good qualifying lap on a reasonably dry track. Even so, it was necessary to be careful, as the curbs were wet and it would have been easy to spin the car. It was necessary to take it to the limit on the qualifying run, however, as we don't get too many opportunities like we did today. When you do, you have to take full advantage. It has taken me nine-and-a-half years in Formula One and 101 Grands Prix to achieve this result. I'm very happy for the whole team, and especially for the mechanics, who have all worked really hard -- the result is what we all deserve. The first 100 Formula One races are behind me, and now we have opened a new account."

Justin Wilson: "Despite running right at the end of the qualifying session, the track conditions were still tricky. The surface was wet in places and it would have been very easy to make a mistake. The car felt good, however, and I was pleased at how it performed in the conditions as well as with my qualifying lap. All credit to Jos for his lap, though, which was clearly a good one.
It is obviously disappointing to have lost my time as the result of a small technical infringement, but I'm still pleased with what we accomplished. With the weather conditions being so changeable here, perhaps there will be a chance of another surprise result tomorrow."

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Jordan ( Ralph Firman - 2nd, Giancarlo Fisichella - 12th )

Gary Anderson: "First qualifying was a bit of a lottery as the track dried out and everybody got quicker and quicker. It's nice to be third with Ralph although he made a bit of a mistake at the penultimate chicane and lost a bit of time. There's not much else to say, it was just one of those days!"

Ralph Firman: "The team made a good call on tyres. I was trying to be cautious at certain parts of the circuit but it was difficult and I made a big mistake which is frustrating, but it's great to be third. It's my first time here and I need a lot more laps in the dry tomorrow to get the hang of the circuit as it's quite technical."

Giancarlo Fisichella: "It was a strange qualifying session. We did our best with intermediate tyres when the circuit might still have been a bit too wet. Today is important but nothing like Saturday so I hope we have more consistent conditions tomorrow, and I wouldn't mind if it's still wet."

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Sauber ( Nick Heidfeld - 3rd, Heinz Harald Frentzen - 8th )

Peter Sauber: "The ranking today is quite interesting. This is actually what Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley wanted to see, and if the spectators like it too, then it's even better for Formula One. However, we probably will not be able to exploit today's gained knowledge tomorrow because if it is dry then we will all have to start again from zero."

Nick Heidfeld: "I am happy about my fourth place today, although you have to take into consideration that the weather conditions basically decided the finishing order. I was one of the last drivers going out on intermediate tyres, and think I had a good run."

Heinz Harald Frentzen: "I think my lap was all right under those circumstances. In the morning there was heavy rain and the track was very wet. Later it started to clear up and so we had fairly dry track conditions while qualifying. It would have been nice if it was the starting grid!"

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Toyota ( Olivier Panis - 4th , Cristiano da Matta - 9th )

Ange Pasquali: "We are happy with our qualifying performance today. It would have been a gamble to send Olivier out on slick tyres, so we sent him out on intermediates, but the track was drying out so quickly, it was a difficult call. We are also pleased with Cristiano's position because when he went out it was at the limit between heavy-wet and shallow-wet. Everybody in the pit lane was cheering the one-two of the Minardi's today and I think this is a typical example of what the new regulations can bring, which is fantastic for the sport. Overall, it was a positive day for Panasonic Toyota Racing today. Everyone has worked well and we are looking forward to more of the same tomorrow."

Olivier Panis: "It is important for me to perform well in front of my home crowd and I am pleased with the lap today. We decided to go out on intermediate tyres given the changing wet-dry conditions throughout the session, but I realised by the first corner that we should have opted for slicks. It was very difficult to predict, though, because the track improved so quickly. All in all, we did a very good job for the first day and we are in a strong position for tomorrow's qualifying."

Cristiano da Matta: "A pretty inconclusive session with the ever-changing track conditions we had. In the circumstances, my lap was not too bad, and I think that given my limited knowledge of this track, I got the best out of the car. We went out on intermediate tyres, which I think was the right thing to do, although the track was much drier than I expected it to be. I'm satisfied with the outcome of the session, but we will have to wait and see what happens tomorrow, especially if it is completely dry."

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Jaguar ( Antonio Pizzonia - 5th, Mark Webber - 7th )

Dr. Mark Gillan: "This morning went well for us despite the changing weather conditions. We made the most of the dry session that we had during testing but the rain soon fell and compromised our dry running programme. Nonetheless, both drivers did a good job this morning to keep their lap times consistent and we have been working very well with Michelin in an effort to better understand the options available to us here. Mark did an excellent job during qualifying at a time when the track was still wet. His lap was quick, error-free and he is well placed for tomorrow. In Antonio�s case, we decided to opt for wet tyres because it looked like the track was still wet in the third sector. The Jordan-Ford of Ralph Firman was on the track at the time and with his dry tyres, he appeared to be losing time, especially in the first sector. Because of this, we took the conservative approach and sent Antonio out on wets. The weather here is very unpredictable and because of this, today�s times mean very little versus grid positions for tomorrow."

Antonio Pizzonia: "The car feels pretty good and apart from a minor issue with the gearbox this morning, I have experienced no problems. The balance and pace is competitive and with hindsight, we should maybe have opted for the dry tyre in qualifying. Qualifying positions from a Friday do not make a big impact to the weekend but it would have been nice to be on pole! We wanted to play it safe going into Saturday�s qualifying and given how good the tyre/car combination is around this circuit, I don�t envisage any real dramas as we go into the decider tomorrow."

Mark Webber: "I�m pretty pleased with that lap but the track was getting faster and faster for each new man out. We have certainly prepared well for this weekend and our morning track time was valuable in helping us understand better the behaviour of the tyres. With weather conditions as dynamic as these, it is impossible to get a handle on where you really stand against the competition and let�s hope for a bit of consistency tomorrow. It doesn�t really matter to us whether it�s wet or dry tomorrow because the car feels good in both conditions. As for this morning�s incident with Michael Schumacher, I certainly do not hold him responsible. Ferrari was obviously undertaking some pit-stop practice and as I approached Michael in the pit-lane, the lollipop man lifted the lollipop and gave the �go� signal to Michael. As it happens, I was driving past and he took my front wing off. I understand the FIA have fined Ferrari and as far as I�m concerned, that�s the end of it. These things happen."

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BAR ( Jacques Villeneuve - 6th, Jenson Button - 19th )

David Richards: "Jacques made the very best of a difficult situation to record an excellent lap time, especially when you consider that he had not seen the new part of the track before. The fact that he ended up seventh was obviously a reflection of the track getting faster, but nonetheless it was a great performance. On the other hand, Jenson was on the track earlier and in hindsight on the wrong tyres. We opted for the extreme wets given that he also had not had any running time this morning but unfortunately this proved to be the wrong call."

Shuhei Nakamoto: "We've got one driver going out right at the start of the session and one in the final third, so hopefully we'll be able to take advantage of whatever the weather throws at us tomorrow. We have to put this morning behind us and make sure we get the most out of the cars for the remainder of the weekend."

Geoffrey Willis: "Unfortunately we didn't get any running this morning so qualifying was always going to be a challenge for the drivers, this being their first timed lap on the modified circuit. The track was steadily drying and after some debate we decided to send Jenson out on extreme wet tyres, whereas in fact it was probably just ready for normal wet tyres. Clearly our choice was compromised by not being able to run this morning.
We did not have a good balance with his car and unfortunately he was unable to get a representative time. By contrast, Jacques rose to the challenge well to post the provisional fastest time on wet tyres on a drying track and was only beaten by six of the following runners who benefited from the rapidly drying track. The rest of the weekend promises to be dry which will help us to minimize the effect of the loss of running time this morning, when the track was mainly wet."

Jacques Villeneuve: "I'm quite happy with my lap under the circumstances. It's been a frustrating day but there wasn't anything I could do so I just had to work with what I had in a single lap. We started with a good set-up so that was a bonus and all the work we've done at other tracks in the wet certainly helped us today.
It's very hard to produce a great lap when you have no knowledge of how the car is going to react, how it will be under braking and, actually, where is the optimum braking point. There were also some really greasy parts of the track which I was discovering for the first time today. You're never going to be on the limit when you're still finding your way and have three new corners to get to grips with. Hopefully we can settle down to do some proper set-up work tomorrow to prepare for final qualifying."

Jenson Button: "Today has obviously been quite difficult for us; the track was drying, we hadn't been able to evaluate the tyre options this morning and there is a whole new section of the track to familiarise ourselves with, all of which would be challenging even without us having missed the whole of the morning session because of the legal situation. We didn't know how much grip there was going to be on the track generally but specifically in the three new corners, so we decided to be quite conservative with the tyre choice and opted for the extreme wet.
In hindsight that was obviously the wrong choice but we had nothing to base our decision on and we felt that tyre would get up to temperature much more quickly. There is nothing we could have done about today though so we just have to put it behind us now and make the most of the remaining running in preparation for a better final qualifying session tomorrow."

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Ferrari ( Rubens Barrichello - 10th, Michael Schumacher - 11th )

Jean Todt: "It was a really unpredictable qualifying, with the two Bridgestone-shod Minardis on the theoretical front row and I am happy for the Anglo-Italian team. Obviously, the changing conditions were the deciding factor in this first qualifying session, with the track progressively getting dryer.
It means that the running order in tomorrow's second session will be very different to usual. We were able to ascertain that, in the wet, our car on Bridgestone tyres worked very well. The weather forecast is good for the weekend and tomorrow morning in free practice, it will be vital to be able to work on dry set-up and tyre choice, which we have been unable to do today."

Ross Brawn: "All things considered, we can be satisfied with our performance on the day. We were quickest in qualifying when the track was still pretty wet. Rubens was not very satisfied with the handling of his car this morning, but was much happier with it this afternoon, thanks to the work he put in along with the team."

Rubens Barrichello: "I had a difficult morning today with various problems, but I was happy that we were able to make a lot of progress on the balance of the car for qualifying. In the N�rburgring, people were unhappy that the track got wetter and wetter throughout the session and today it was the other way round. It is the inevitable result of the qualifying format and it benefits different drivers at different times. But the most important thing for me today was that I was able to significantly improve my car, so I am in good shape for tomorrow."

Michael Schumacher: "It was an interesting session and I say well done to the Minardis for taking first and second places. It is a fantastic thing to see. We are where we should expect to be given the track conditions when I made my run, so I am reasonably happy. Given the track conditions this afternoon, I cannot really give an accurate assessment of how the car was performing. This morning was more useful to us as at least the conditions were consistent and the car seemed to work well in the wet."

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McLaren ( David Coulthard - 13th, Kimi Raikkonen - 16th )

Ron Dennis: "There is nothing new in the abnormalities that can come out of a practice or qualifying session which is affected by variable weather conditions. However unlike previous years we now have the single lap qualifying where these variables can have a dramatic impact, which was the case today. With tomorrow's qualifying determining the grid and taking into consideration the competitiveness of the current World Championship I hope that the weather doesn't intervene and subsequently affect the outcome of the race."

Norbert Haug: "Kimi and David were among the first seven drivers out who had to cope with the tricky and wet track. Let's hope for dry weather throughout tomorrow's qualifying or at least for a dry beginning to the session, just the other way around for a change..."

Kimi Raikkonen: "We did all of our running today in the wet but still managed to do some set-up work. The result of today's qualifying really just depended on when you had your run. As both David and I had our laps early on, when the track was wet, I'm not concerned. We will see what happens tomorrow where hopefully the sun will shine."

David Coulthard: "Obviously the conditions were tricky today with rain during practice and then the track drying during the qualifying session which is reflected in the times. I was running on the full wets like the others before me, so really we have had no dry running today. During practice we were familiarising ourselves with the revisions to the track. I look forward to tomorrow where hopefully the weather will be better."

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Williams ( Juan Pablo Montoya - 14th,  Ralf Schumacher - 17th )

Sam Michael: "It was a wet session for us and it was the luck of the draw where you qualified. The car was pretty strong in this morning's Free Practice session though. Anyway, we are just looking forward to tomorrow and to some dry running and we are quite positive about the race on Sunday."

Mario Theissen: "Today's qualifying was obviously hampered by bad weather conditions. The first 15 cars went out on the track on either full- or shallow wet tyres and the last five cars could even wear dry tyres. Actually, the field was turned upside down, which will result in a very exciting final qualifying tomorrow. Our drivers made the best out of the situation and we had no technical problems at all."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "Considering the circumstances, I am pretty pleased with my qualifying lap today. My car was good and it worked fairly well. In the Free Practice session I wasn't very quick because I wasn't very comfortable with the car but it definitely improved for qualifying. Ralf was pretty much quicker than me all morning and to be faster than him in qualifying is obviously positive for me.
In the last sector I lost a lot of time through the fast chicane due to the handling of the car, which wasn't how I expected it to be there, so I had to drive under the limit. We have to wait and see what is going on with the weather but I think we are looking pretty competitive and consistent. After all what really matters is where everyone qualifies tomorrow, not so much today."

Ralf Schumacher: "We had no luck with the weather, but one has to take things as they come and always try to get the best out of a difficult situation. My car had slight understeer but in the first two sectors my time was better than Kimi Raikkonen's, who had gone out just before me on the same Michelin wet tyres. However, in the third sector, I had traction problems which cost me quite a lot of time. Now I am concentrating on the decisive final qualifying tomorrow."

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Renault ( Jarno Trulli - 15th, Fernando Alonso - 18th )

Pat Symonds: "It is frustrating that, under the new regulations, the weather alone dictates the positions, as we saw today, but it is no more than frustrating, as it is the same for everybody, and we all accepted and understood the rules at the start of the year. Obviously, it puts the big teams at a disadvantage, but this will not be great, as we expect dry conditions tomorrow. At that point, our Heathrow running will once again prove an unquestionable benefit."

Denis Chevrier: "This is a perfect example of the random nature of the new regulations, where the main factor is the weather. The worse a team�s position in the championship, the better their chances of qualifying well in these conditions. As for making any judgements, quite honestly it would be a waste of time to try, given the wide range of set-ups different cars will have used according to the conditions. All we can do is concentrate on what we have learned today, and what remains to be discovered."

Jarno Trulli: "A strange qualifying session today. I made some mistakes on my flying lap, which cost me some time, but they were linked to the prevailing conditions at that time, as well as the tyre choice. In spite of my position at the end of the session, I think we have worked well today."

Fernando Alonso: "The timed lap was OK. In changing conditions, you always make some small mistakes, and today was no exception in the first and last sectors. Having said that, we ran on a dry track this morning, and that will be an advantage later in the weekend; we also did a good amount of running in the wet. I think we are pretty strong for the rest of the weekend."

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