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

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Reports & Results

What the teams and drivers said - Friday

Renault ( Jarno Trulli - 1st, Fernando Alonso - 6th )

Pat Symonds: "Jarnoís time justifies the confidence we had in our performance here. Fernando was a little more cautious but there is no doubt that both drivers can be highly competitive this weekend. The balance of the cars is quite good, and we looked quick in all circumstances, including our high fuel runs this morning."

Denis Chevrier: "Naturally, we are very pleased with our performance this afternoon, and it demonstrates that the problems we experienced this morning didnít handicap our performance. After the results of first qualifying, we can justifiably hope to challenge strongly tomorrow. We now need to continue our work in order to put all the elements in place that will allow us to perform well on Sunday."

Jarno Trulli: "The car has been well balanced ever since we started running and, even though I had some technical problems this morning, we have been quick throughout. I managed to get in a clean, mistake-free lap and I now have to look to repeat that performance tomorrow: the new rules make things more difficult, but after having taken three Friday Ďpolesí this year, I would like to get one on Saturday as well before the end of the season. If we manage that, we will be in a very strong position for the race."

Fernando Alonso: "I did a normal lap, but within my limits: the day for taking risks is tomorrow. Our package is working well here and as Jarno showed today, we are very competitive. I feel confident for the rest of the weekend."

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Williams ( Ralf Schumacher - 2nd, Juan Pablo Montoya - 8th )

Sam Michael: "We have brought some new aero parts to Suzuka, which seem to work well and it was obviously not a bad first day here for Ralf. Juan had a disadvantage as he lost track time this morning due to a gearbox problem. We still have a lot of work to do on the race set-up in particular, to get the balance right for the Esses section, which is the most important part of the circuit."

Mario Theissen: "Ralf put a very good lap together, especially in the second sector, where he was the quickest. The changes on the set-up of the car were according to expectation. Eighth place for Juan Pablo is also ok, considering this morning he could only pur a very few laps under his belt due to a gearbox problem. Also the last step advancement of the P83 engine ran today without any problems."

Ralf Schumacher: "We changed the car quite a lot during this morningís Free Practice and the result was pretty good, which clearly shows we went the right way. Tomorrowís Free Practice sessions will be very important to us since we didnít have much running this morning due to some problems and we need some more time to improve our car. However, I think it is looking promising for us so far, also thanks to our Michelin tyres, which seem to be very good and can provide an important contribution to our performance. With regards to the revised track, I think they made a good job, just the 130R corner is a little bit too bumpy."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "It was obviously very difficult for me to set a good time in todayís First Qualifying due to the fact that I lost most of this morningís Free Practice session because of a gearbox problem. During qualifying, my car was not at all ideally set up nor was it comfortable to drive and I pushed as hard as I could. Itís going to be quite a lot of work for us tomorrow to make up for the lost time and get it back together. However, Ralfís time shows that we have a good car and thereís definitely much more to come."

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Ferrari ( Michael Schumacher - 3rd, Rubens Barrichello - 7th )

Jean Todt: "As usual on Friday, we have worked on set-up and on tyre choice. We know this is the decisive weekend of the season, but we do not want this factor to put us under any extra pressure. Along with Bridgestone on the tyre side and Shell as regards fuels and lubricants, we are as well prepared as possible. Things went pretty well for us in this afternoonís qualifying, even if Rubens lost some time in the final sector. But for this, he could have finished higher than seventh. Tomorrow, we have to make the final choices as far as set-up, tyres and fuel levels for the start of the race are concerned. In the afternoon, we will then tackle the final qualifying session of the season and the relative positions on the grid will be very important come Sunday afternoon."

Ross Brawn: "We adopted a rather cautious approach to this qualifying and, given how things went, I think we can expect to be pretty competitive tomorrow,Ē said Ross Brawn. ďThe drivers are happy with the balance of their cars and the performance of the tyres. In tomorrowís free practice, we still have a bit of work to do in terms of choosing between the two types of tyre available. Overall, we can expect both qualifying and the race to be very close."

Michael Schumacher: "I am quite happy with my lap and my time, considering that, yet again going out first is a slight disadvantage. Although, here it was less penalising than at some other circuits. The car seems to be handling very well and is very competitive. Looking at the times, the top runners are all very close, which means that tomorrowís fight for pole will be good fun and the outcome will be hard to predict. I am looking forward to the rest of the weekend."

Rubens Barrichello: "Overall, I am happy with this result. The car went well and I was lucky to be out on track when the conditions had improved. Theoretically, second place gives me a very good start position for tomorrow afternoonís qualifying, but the unpredictable weather could change everything. We still have some work to do on the car set-up in the dry, given that we only managed two runs in the dry before the rain arrived this morning."

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

Ron Dennis: "A good solid day's work by both drivers and the team as a whole. As always we are more focused on tomorrow's qualifying and the race than the somewhat less important task of qualifying today. Hopefully the weather will remain stable for the balance of the weekend."

Norbert Haug: "Two tenths of a second behind the best time and one tenth behind Michael Schumacher mark a good beginning to the weekend."

David Coulthard: "I'm reasonably happy with that lap and believe there is still more to come as the car is performing well. I was a bit cautious going into the hairpin and slowed the car too much, but what you lose on entry you sometimes gain on traction. The track layout means that it's important to get the right flow and a small mistake can upset your rhythm quite easily, but everything went well today. The chicane is very difficult as you need to find the line and ride the kerbs, so I think the drivers who took part in this morning's Free Practice had an advantage. I look forward to tomorrow's second qualifying and Sunday's race."

Kimi Raikkonen: "My lap today was OK, but there is still room for improvement especially in the first sector where I lost about four tenths of a second compared to the best sector time. The gap to the competition is less than it normally is in Friday qualifying, so we should be in reasonable shape for tomorrow and Sunday. I'm pleased with how the car feels especially in the second and third sectors, and I like the new chicane. At the end of the day we are here to do our best and that is what we will continue to do."

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Jaguar ( Mark Webber - 9th, Justin Wilson - 15th )

Dr Mark Gillan: "A very pleasing day and one which has generated over 770km for us without any reliability problems. The top four teams have been very strong today at what is a very demanding and technical circuit. To have posted the 9th fastest time, therefore, is an extremely positive start to our weekend. Itís a little disappointing that Justin wasnít closer to Mark but in all fairness, his lap times have been steadily improving all day. We have achieved successfully our preparation list for race day and our tyre and set-up work this morning was positive. With four teams now fighting for that precious 5th place in the championship, tomorrow promises to be a very interesting day and one which will significantly affect the outcome of Sundayís race given how difficult it is to overtake around here."

Mark Webber: "Thereís some quick boys out there today and I am pretty happy to have got 9th place behind the front runners. Itís awesome driving around this circuit on very low fuel. There are some big G-forces at work and itís a great playground for an F1 car. Itís a very demanding circuit aerodynamically speaking and it puts a lot of pressure on engines too. Itís going to be difficult to keep up with the big boys this weekend but our battle is against BAR-Honda, Sauber and Toyota Ė all of whom are chasing points and 5th place in the constructorís championship. We have begun our campaign well and I feel quite good going into tomorrowís decisive second qualifying session."

Justin Wilson: "I am reasonably pleased with what is my quickest lap of the day. Itís a very difficult circuit to master but one that I am getting the hang of. Sector One is particularly tough and there is absolutely no margin for error. The slightest foot wrong results in the car sliding wide and there is an awful lot of time to be lost and won through there. I suffered some minor niggles in the first session this morning but by the end of the second session, our preparation going into qualifying was very good. I generated a good amount of mileage today and there is still more time left in the car Ė something I aim to extract during tomorrowís critical second qualifying phase. Getting my first championship point at the U.S. Grand Prix two weeks was a great feeling but it leaves you with an appetite for more and given how close the constructorís battle is, both Mark and I will be making an aggressive charge for more points come Sunday."

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Sauber ( Nick Heidfeld - 10th, Heinz Harald Frentzen - 12th )

Peter Sauber: "Our positions today are a good result for us. Nick, with his top 10 result, has laid a good foundation for defending our fifth place on Sunday."

Nick Heidfeld: "With my 10th place we can be very satisfied. It gives us a good starting point in our defence of fifth place in the Constructors' World Championship. This morning we did some long-runs which didn't leave a lot of time for set-up work, but we made some changes for qualifying which worked out reasonably well, though I still had some high-speed oversteer."

Heinz Harald Frentzen: "I had great fun today, although the car was tail happy. I like this track and I always enjoy driving here, but we still have some work to do on the set-up for tomorrow."

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BAR ( Takuma Sato - 11th - replaces Jacques Villeneuve , Jenson Button - 16th )

David Richards: "I am delighted that Taku has had a positive start to his first racing weekend with us; and that he has performed exactly as required. He needs to focus on maintaining this pace and approach, then I am sure he will have a good result. By contrast, Jensonís engine failure, just eight laps into free practice, is the last thing we needed. As we saw in the subsequent qualifying session, the lack of track time is a major setback, particularly at Suzuka which is such a challenging circuit for any driver. Nevertheless, the whole team is in a positive mood, and we will be doing all we can to get back to where we should be tomorrow."

Shuhei Nakamoto: "Both drivers pushed hard this afternoon. We are sorry that Jenson couldn't show his true potential due to lack of running time this morning caused by an engine failure. Takuma did a good job under the pressure of his first attempt at one-lap qualifying, which is exactly what we expected, having worked closely with him over the past few years."

Geoffrey Willis: "We have had a very positive first dayís running with Takuma, who applied himself very professionally throughout the day. He completed all of our programme this morning, and this afternoon drove a very sensible, solid lap. On the other side of the garage it was unfortunately a rather different story. Early on in the session we had a major engine blow-up on Jensonís car and the subsequent fire has damaged quite a number of components. He was unable to complete any of his planned running this morning, which left him to qualify without experience of the tyre or time to get a good set-up."

Takuma Sato: "Iíve had a fantastic first day with the team and really enjoyed working with them to prepare for first qualifying, especially with Jock Clear. This is the first time Iíve taken part in one-lap qualifying, so that was very interesting. Iím reasonably happy with my lap. I lost a bit of time in the first sector but thereís plenty of time for improvement throughout the rest of the weekend. Today I just wanted to take things steady, work through my programme and establish a good footing with the team and engineers. To be honest, Iím still coming to terms with actually being here racing this weekend, but Iím pleased to have had a good first day and Iím very much looking forward to the rest of the weekend."

Jenson Button: "Itís really difficult at this circuit, especially when you arenít able to run many laps, as was the case this morning. I lost about 45 minutes as a result of an engine problem, and because of that, qualifying was a bit of a shot in the dark for me. There have been some substantial changes to the circuit this year and because of my limited running I havenít had the chance to work out where the braking areas are or to get the right balance; I had a bit too much understeer. I also didnít get the chance to run on new tyres or with low fuel. It didnít feel like a solid lap and this isnít a great start to a very important weekend for us. We have made it quite difficult for ourselves heading into tomorrow but things can only get better."

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Toyota ( Olivier Panis - 13th, Cristiano da Matta - 14th )

Ange Pasquali: "Not a great qualifying for us today. We are not as competitive as we expected to be and we have to find out why. Both Olivier and Cristiano lost time in different sectors compared to their respective times from the free practice this morning. Obviously, we will have a busy time this evening prior to tomorrow morning's sessions in order to improve our overall performance level. Ultimately, it is tomorrow's qualifying session that forms the grid, so we are still confident for the rest of the weekend."

Olivier Panis: "We worked hard in this morning's practice hour, but we are unfortunately not yet at the competitive level we were at in Indianapolis. We are struggling a bit with the general grip and balance of the car, but I like this circuit a lot, so we will continue to tune the car to be quicker tomorrow. The whole team is giving maximum effort at this final race of the season, and we will do the best we can in front of all the Japanese Toyota fans."

Cristiano da Matta: "I am not really satisfied with the performance we have shown today. We could already see in this morning's practice that the car is not behaving as well around here as we had initially expected it to, so we have to check a few things overnight. It is not the easiest track to learn in just one hour, but it is a fantastic circuit to drive - one of the best I have driven at all season. It is our home race, so I am ready to push for a good result this weekend. I think we will be in better shape tomorrow."

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

Gary Anderson: "Itís a difficult track here: downforce is important and Iím afraid we havenít got enough of it! This morning Motoyama did a very positive job in testing. He ran with quite a reasonable fuel load and did a good lap so I think his initiation into Formula One, just 40 laps, was very commendable."

Ralph Firman: "Itís great to be back here, itís like my second home and the only circuit this year that I know really well. Iím really enjoying it and itís only my second race coming back after the accident. Iím working well with the team and weíve found a reasonably good balance but thereís still more time to find, especially at the first corner, and our final position is a bit disappointing."

Giancarlo Fisichella: "It wasnít the best today. I made a small mistake at the last corner and lost maybe a couple of tenths of a second, but then we are three seconds slower than pole anyway. But, itís my last race with Jordan and I will do my best because itís important for us to score some more points. Iíd like to do that for the guys because in two years with them, Iíve had a good time. Obviously this season has been a bit tough but nevertheless the atmosphere in this team is fantastic."

Satoshi Motoyama (Test Driver): "I am happy to get this chance in Formula One, testing with Jordan and at my home Grand Prix circuit. Itís the first time I have ever driven a Formula One car and I was surprised at the engine power and, of course, the speed. I know the track very well which was good and enjoyable, but in Formula One I felt it was a completely different circuit."

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Minardi ( Jos Verstappen - 19th, Nicolas Kiesa - 20th )

Paul Stoddart: "Overall, it was not a bad performance. To have taken a second off last yearís qualifying time is more than some other teams achieved today. Itís clear, however, that Nicolas needs a little more time to learn the track, but Iím sure tomorrow will see both drivers comfortable with their race cars for Sunday."

Jos Verstappen: "We did three runs trying different set-ups this morning, and eventually ended up coming back to close to the original. We also did the normal Friday tyre comparisons and on my last run, which should have been the fastest, a Renault blew up in front of me and spoiled the lap. The chassis balance was pretty good right from the start of the morning session, and all in all, I think we did some useful work today. As far as the qualifying run this afternoon was concerned, I think we did a good job with what we had. I was on the harder compound tyre compared with my team mate, as I felt it was the better option in high-speed corners, and this is very much a high-speed circuit. The car was at the maximum, sliding through the corners, and that is as it should be in qualifying."

Nicolas Kiesa: "It has been a hard day, as this is a difficult circuit to learn. My qualifying lap was okay until I locked up the right front wheel braking for the last chicane and lost quite a bit of time. We made solid progress this morning, however, and weíve got a good race car."

Gianmaria Bruni (Test Driver): "Iím very happy with my first time at Suzuka, which is definitely a tough circuit. We worked on aero-balance and tried a new design of bargeboard, and the programme went well. The chassis balance was good throughout the morning. Later in the session, I tried for a time on a new set of tyres, and although I made a mistake on my second lap, my best time was only 0.1 sec off the best Jos set during the test session, so I was very pleased with that. Overall, Iím very happy with the work we did today."

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