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

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What the teams and drivers said - Saturday

Williams ( Ralf Schumacher - 1st , Juan Pablo Montoya - 2nd )

Sam Michael: "It was again a good effort by the team to put both cars on the front row again after Canada. The car is really competitive here and this is a credit to all the people working in the factories in Grove and in Munich. We are definitely looking forward to a strong race. It's also great for Michelin to be on the front row of the race for their home Grand Prix."

Mario Theissen: "For the fourth race weekend in a row we are very competitive in qualifying. It reflects all the hard work that is being done by the team and it's partners. In Magny-Cours, the aerodynamics play an essential role so it's obvious WilliamsF1 have made enormous progress during the last few weeks. Another part of the success belongs to our tyre partners, Michelin. In free practice it looked like the car's fast but also both of our drivers do very well here, the small gap between their times shows this."

Ralf Schumacher: "I'm delighted with my pole especially when I think that I went out fourth when the track had not reached it's optimum condition. My lap was reasonably clean but it wasn't the best lap I've done due to some understeer in the third sector of the lap. It's obviously positive to be nearly half a second in front of my brother's Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren Mercedes. I hope we will convert this 1-2 into an even better result than we had in Canada, where we finished 2nd and 3rd."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "All in all it was a positive qualifying for me. If you look at this morning's times, I was about seven tenths slower than Ralf and it looks like I have now closed the gap to him slightly. The car wasn't handling particularly well during my fast lap causing me to lose some time. I'm pleased Ralf and myself are on the front row and I think that the Michelin tyres have the upper hand over the Bridgestones here."

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Ferrari ( Michael Schumacher - 3rd, Rubens Barrichello - 8th )

Jean Todt: "We knew it would be a very tough qualifying session and so it proved. Michael managed to grab third place on the grid by a whisker, which will be important for tomorrow's race. Unfortunately, Rubens had too much understeer on his lap, evident from the first split time, at the end of a sector where he had previously been very quick all day. The race should be very close between the various chassis-engine-tyre packages. Given the points allocation system this year, reliability will be the crucial factor."

Ross Brawn: "Naturally, we are disappointed with the way qualifying went today, as we were unable to fight for pole position. We hope to get a good result tomorrow, mainly through our reliability. It is clear that we have to improve the performance level of our package. We know what we have to do and we will be working flat out, along with our technical partners, to do just that in the coming weeks."

Michael Schumacher: "We are not quite where I expected to be, as we thought this circuit would suit our car better. I don't think we have a problem in any particular area as it is more a case of the opposition getting stronger. It's true I am quickest in the first sector which could give an overtaking advantage, but I would trade that for pole if I could. At least third place means I am on the clean side of the track, which could be helpful tomorrow afternoon.
As for the changes to the circuit, I think it is a reasonable improvement over the old layout which was twisty and slow and a bit Mickey Mouse. After what happened at the Nurburgring, starting next to Juan Pablo is fine. We have been very close very often and that is part of racing and I am looking forward to it."

Rubens Barrichello: "I am very disappointed. On my quick lap, the car was handling differently to the way it had done in the warm-up, picking up a lot of understeer. All day, I had been quickest in the first sector, but in qualifying no less than four drivers were quicker than me. Now I have to hope for a good result in the race, but it will be hard. So far we have had a very reliable car and we will be counting on that."

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McLaren ( Kimi Raikkonen - 4th, David Coulthard - 5th )

Ron Dennis: "Both drivers put in tidy laps which coupled with our race strategy should give us a very good opportunity for good results tomorrow."

Norbert Haug: "A solid basis for the race. Kimi and David are within half and one and a half tenths behind the Championship leader Michael Schumacher on the second and third row. It will be interesting to see who will be on which strategy in tomorrow's race."

Kimi Raikkonen: "I think we did the best we could, and hopefully it will pay off tomorrow. I struggled a bit with understeer in the third sector, which cost me some time but apart from that I'm quite pleased with our starting positions. The Michelins have been working well and the hotter the weather gets, the better as far as I'm concerned. We will see what happens in the race, but I think we are in strong positions to score important championship points."

David Coulthard: "A better qualifying for me than in previous races so in that respect I'm pleased. I was driving defensively to try and keep the lap tidy. Now I already look back and know that I could be a couple of tenths quicker if I had pushed more. The car responded well, and I was able to get through turn 13 quickly where we have struggled somewhat so far. I'm confident that we can have a strong race."

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Renault ( Jarno Trulli - 6th , Fernando Alonso - 7th )

Pat Symonds: "Good laps from both drivers today, and we managed to achieve a reasonable balance on the cars although, as always, we would welcome a little more grip. The wet weather yesterday makes it more difficult to predict the other fuel loads, but we feel we are in a competitive position. As can be seen from the times, the Michelin tyres are very competitive, and should stand up equally well in the race."

Denis Chevrier: "Today's results demonstrate that, although we cannot expect to compete for the win, we are legitimate and serious challengers for tomorrow's race, and are well placed to make the most of any incidents. We had a problem with Jarno's engine just before the session began, but managed to solve it in time for his run. Once again, our drivers' performances are very close and, for tomorrow, the current unstable balance between the top teams would only need to shift a little for us to score a podium finish."

Jarno Trulli: "I am extremely happy with the result today. I had some difficulty in finding a good set-up at the start of the morning, but we made good progress. However, when you look at the teams in front, I don't think we can compete for victory tomorrow. Having said that, tomorrow will be a long race and we can still be confident of a good result."

Fernando Alonso: "My lap was pretty good. I had a problem-free day, completing lots of laps on race and tyre preparation work. As for the flying lap, I'm happy with it: I didn't make any mistakes, and the balance was good, which allowed me to achieve the car's potential today. In terms of the strategy, I am confident that the race will once again see us score some more championship points."

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Jaguar ( Mark Webber - 9th, Antonio Pizzonia - 11th )

Dr Mark Gillan: "We've had another good day and no issues with the car. Our morning sessions were focused on tyre work - something we haven't been able to do too much of in dry conditions this weekend. We also undertook some longer runs this morning and both drivers are very pleased with the pace and balance of the Jaguar R4. Michelin's contribution has again been nothing short of excellent and our tyre choice for tomorrow's race is correct.
Both drivers did a good job in qualifying and given that we are sitting behind the top four teams, there isn't much more we could have done at this stage of our development. The reliability and competitiveness of the Jaguar R4 continues to strengthen and assuming there are no wild surprises tomorrow, our strategy should help us scrap for points."

Mark Webber: "A pleasing lap but I felt I could have maybe squeezed an extra couple of tenths out of the car given that I achieved a 1.16.01s this morning. Michelin obviously have the upper hand in the tyre war right now and combined with our ever-improving race package, I'd say we are well placed for more points in tomorrow's race. The top four teams are doing a great job and we need more time to develop and attack them - not something we can achieve overnight.
Work on next year's car is already well underway and in the meantime we must remain focused on getting the maximum from what we have. The balance and speed of the R4 has been very good this weekend and assuming we can again be reliable tomorrow, our race strategy should work well in our favour. The first few laps will be very interesting, especially around some of the new corners and track modifications."

Antonio Pizzonia: "That was a good lap and the best I could have got from the car. We achieved some good work this morning and spent a lot of time doing long runs and thinking carefully about tyre choice for the race tomorrow. We have worked very carefully on race strategy too and I must say that I am very much looking forward to tomorrow. The team has done a very good job this weekend and combined with Michelin's strengths, there is nothing to stop us from entering the point's challenge tomorrow. A lot obviously depends on what happens up front but we are well prepared and that's the best we can hope for."

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Toyota ( Olivier Panis - 10th, Cristiano da Matta - 13th )

Keizo Takahashi: "Although Olivier achieved the team's fourth top ten qualifying result in a row, reaching our qualifying objective, I am a little disappointed because we were aiming for slightly higher positions. Both drivers did a good job, but the track had less grip than we had anticipated. Tomorrow, we are opting for different strategies for Olivier and Cristiano and we will again be fighting for championship points. From tenth and thirteenth, I believe we are well-placed to do just that."

Olivier Panis: "I'm happy because starting from the top ten again is a very positive result for the team, especially at a difficult track like Magny-Cours. I expected a little bit better, but the track temperature changed a lot since warm-up and even during the session, which made grip levels lower. I think everybody has done a good job and we have made continuous improvements to the car over the weekend. We should be optimistic - I am in the top ten for the third race in a row and now we have to turn that into a good race finish tomorrow in the points."

Cristiano da Matta: "We have taken a slightly different strategy to usual, with more emphasis on tomorrow's race, rather than this afternoon's qualifying session. With this in mind, I am quite pleased with my lap. I don't think I could have got much more out of the car, although I could have gained some time in the last chicane, maybe one or two-tenths. I thought a top 12 would have been possible, and we are not far from that in 13th and from there it should be a good race."

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BAR ( Jacques Villeneuve - 12th, Jenson Button - 14th )

David Richards: "After yesterday's heavily compromised running, the team made a good recovery today, although this was further hampered by Jenson's engine failure, which effectively ruled him out of the second session. As has become the norm recently, we strengthened our position as the number two Bridgestone team after Ferrari. I was pleased to see Jacques back on form, and I think that it is perfectly reasonable to hope for some further points tomorrow from both of our drivers."

Geoff Willis: "The car is working well at this track so we were able to focus on the evaluation of both of our tyre choices here and are confident in the tyre we have chosen for the race. The team did a good job to get Jenson out for a few laps at the end of the second session today after it failed right at the end of the first session. Although Jenson was hampered by his lack of running this morning we qualified more or less as we expected and are happy to be the second Bridgestone team since we knew it was going to be difficult at what is, in effect, Michelin's home track."

Shuhei Nakamoto: "Although our starting position isn't great I think we did okay today. Jenson didn't have much time on track this morning due to the engine change, which obviously put him at a bit of a disadvantage. We have to push to get a good start tomorrow and fight for points."

Jacques Villeneuve: "I'm quite pleased with the lap because it was better than I had anticipated. I had good balance and everything worked fine but we got as much grip as we could from the tyres and 12th is where we are today. There were a couple of tenths to be had maybe, because it was a good lap but not a crazy lap, but nothing that would have put us any further up the grid. It's going to be another tough race tomorrow."

Jenson Button: "We haven't really had any running time in which to set the car up properly, so the lap was OK considering. I've only done about 40 minutes work out of an available two and a half hours of free practice time as a result of us having to withdraw from yesterday's first session and then an engine problem which put me out for most of the third session this morning.
Most of the work I have done has been for the race so 14th was the best I could hope for in qualifying. It's never a good thing to be one of the first on track in qualifying, then on my lap I got a bit too much understeer in the first of the three new corners and lost a couple of tenths there, which is quite disappointing. The car generally feels quite good though and I'm confident about our strategy, so we'll just have to wait and see what the race brings now."

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Sauber ( Nick Heidfeld - 15th, Heinz Harald Frentzen - 16th )

Peter Sauber: "We are not happy with these positions, that's for sure. But from a factual point of view we had to expect them. We were hoping to get closer to the BAR cars. But the clear difference to the first half of the table is a matter of tyres, rather than the performance of the car itself."

Nick Heidfeld: "I think I had a good run but nevertheless I am not happy with my result. I am now hoping for a problem-free race, such as I had at the N�rburgring a week ago which proved that we can perform well under good conditions. But we have to wait and see how it will be tomorrow."

Heinz Harald Frentzen: "I had a good lap, but it was impossible to achieve more today. My car suffered from understeer and some tyre graining, but we expected that."

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Jordan ( Giancarlo Fisichella - 17th, Ralph Firman - 18th )

Gary Anderson: "With our strategy we weren't expecting to qualify very high and we're just hoping everyone else is doing five stops! Poor grip has been the story of our weekend and at this type of track it's grip that matters. Every corner depends on it, as it's all reasonably high speed and it has a slippery surface especially when it is hot. We just haven't got the grip and we're not quick enough, it's quite simple. From a team point of view, it's disappointing and we're going through a stage when we have to work harder."

Giancarlo Fisichella: "Well, I made a mistake in my lap but without it I would probably have been in the same position anyway. We are nearly three seconds slower than the pole position time which I'm obviously not happy about. We need something more, a big step forward as I'm not really feeling confident. I am very disappointed, but at least we're not on the last row."

Ralph Firman: "As the circuit picks up grip we've had a lot more oversteer. I made a slight mistake in the last sector but I don't think it affected my position. It's difficult to know what strategies other people are on, maybe ours will help us. We'll have to wait and see how we go tomorrow."

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Minardi ( Jos Verstappen - 19th, Justin Wilson - 20th )

Paul Stoddart: "It's not a surprise that the euphoria of yesterday didn't continue today; however, whatever happens, no one can take those magic moments away from the Minardi team when we were P1, and almost P2, in Friday's original qualifying session. Rather than in any way being sad, the team is quite upbeat about today's performance, and particularly impressed that we're only a few tenths off the Jordan and within reach of the Saubers. All in all, it has been a good weekend so far for European Minardi, and wouldn't it be nice if we could take a point home from tomorrow's race?."

Jos Verstappen: "It's back to reality today, but we knew that was always going to be the case. I was pleased with the lap I did. I drove on the limit, there weren't any mistakes, and I'm happy with the result."

Justin Wilson: "It was a bit hectic just before qualifying, when I had to jump into the T-car, which was set up for Jos. The important thing, though, was that we got a lap in, as yesterday's didn't count. I was told not to be too concerned with the lap time and just ensure that we qualified for tomorrow's race, which is what I did. Now we'll see what happens tomorrow."

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What the teams and drivers said
Friday - Saturday - Sunday

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