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

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Reports & Results

What the teams and drivers said - Saturday

Ferrari ( Rubens Barrichello - 1st, Michael Schumacher - 14th )

Jean Todt: "The changing weather conditions turned qualifying into a lottery. This has resulted in a rather unusual grid, although with Rubens we have a Ferrari on pole position. He drove a great lap just before the rain intensified. Michael was the third from last driver to go for his timed lap and the last man to complete his run. This explains his fourteenth position. The two championships will be decided in tomorrow’s race. We know what we have to do to defend our positions. It is obvious that, especially because of predictions for more uncertain weather, much will depend on making the right choices at the right time. The changes to the regulations introduced at the start of the year were designed to add an element of unpredictability to qualifying and here in Suzuka that is exactly what has happened."

Rubens Barrichello: "This was definitely my best ever qualifying lap at Suzuka. This morning, although the car was good on used tyres, I was not happy with it on new tyres. But we made changes which improved it a lot in time for the warm-up. I drove an aggressive lap even though it was already spitting and I attacked the Esses section hard. I was alright on the fast section, but I braked a bit conservatively into the chicane, as by then there was a lot of water on my visor. I do not feel under any pressure and tomorrow I just plan to enjoy the race. If I win, then for Michael the job is done and with me and Juan Pablo on the front and Michael and Ralf further back it should be interesting for the Constructors."

Michael Schumacher: "It was an interesting session, as the varying weather meant that track conditions were inconsistent. I am very happy that Rubens is on pole, as it is good for him, for the team, for the Constructors’ championship and even for my situation in the Drivers.’ The session could have been much worse for me and I think that Kimi was also affected a bit by the rain. Tomorrow the forecast is for mixed conditions, which could suit us."

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Williams (  Juan Pablo Montoya - 2nd,  Ralf Schumacher - 20th )

Sam Michael: "It was obviously a mixed qualifying for us - good for Juan but bad for Ralf, which was due to the weather. However, we believe that we should have a good race performance tomorrow to help our challenge for the Constructors‘ Championship. Juan is well placed to start with and Ralf is keen to show what he can do by cutting through the field."

Mario Theissen: "First the Indianapolis race and now also the result of the final qualifying session of the season has been decided by the weather conditions. Juan Pablo managed to complete his lap just before the rain started to fall significantly and secured second place. For the last three drivers, the rain's influence was evident - Michael Schumacher has to cope with 14th place, Ralf spun and Jarno Trulli didn’t even do his qualifying lap. For Sunday changeable weather conditions are predicted too. Therefore it is impossible to predict the outcome of the race or the Constructors' Championship. At least, this weekend, once again, all of our engines have run troublefree so far."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "I am obviously pleased with my qualifying position, especially because the balance of my car wasn’t ideal throughout my lap, due to the fact that we made some changes to the set-up since this morning’s Free Practice sessions, in accordance with our weather forecast for tomorrow. However, I am sure we’ve got a very consistent and strong car for the race. It’s a shame that Ralf will have to start from the back, as we really need to score as many points as possible for the Constructors’ title."

Ralf Schumacher: "Everything was going so perfectly this weekend, even after this morning's session. I just had bad luck with the weather conditions in qualifying. I tried to make the best out of it, but it just did not work out. It was actually useless, I could have come in straight away. Then I eventually spun. I will have to start from the back of the grid and it will be very difficult to overtake and it is going to be a tough race. We need points for the Constructors‘ Championship and I’ll fight hard, but that is the way it is today."

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Toyota ( Cristiano da Matta - 3rd, Olivier Panis - 4th )

Keizo Takahashi: "At our second home grand prix, I am extremely happy that we did the best ever qualifying result with both Cristiano and Olivier on the second row of the grid. Cristiano did a fantastic job throughout the day, especially considering this is his first time at Suzuka, which is one of the toughest tracks on the calendar. As for Olivier, the car was not as well balanced as it could have been, but he drove a faultless lap and gave his absolute best. We want to keep this momentum up and achieve some good points in tomorrow's race."

Cristiano da Matta: "I am obviously very pleased with our qualifying performance here in Suzuka today. 3rd and 4th is really fantastic. I am not just pleased with the lap time, but also with the hard work that the whole team put in overnight to improve the car. We struggled quite a bit in the sessions yesterday, so I was happy that the car felt so much more connected this morning. Okay, we had help from the rain this afternoon, but even so, I believe we would still have been in the top 8. I am confident that we can be quite strong in our home race tomorrow. I am really looking forward to doing all we can to give the Toyota fans a good result."

Olivier Panis: "This is a very positive result for the whole team and we have repeated our strong qualifying performance from the last race. Having both cars on the second row of the grid tomorrow at Toyota's home grand prix is exceptional, even if we finally had a bit of help from the weather. Despite this result, there is still some work to be done on my car. We still have to find out why I am missing some top speed down the straight in comparison to Cristiano's car. I think I will use the wet weather this afternoon to stay in and work on it with the team."

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Renault ( Fernando Alonso - 5th, Jarno Trulli - 19th )

Pat Symonds: "After such a promising start to the weekend, today’s qualifying result is bitterly disappointing. However, in spite of a lap affected by the onset of rain, Fernando’s fifth place, while not reflecting the full potential of the car, still gives us a real chance for tomorrow. What can I say for Jarno? He must be the unluckiest man in Formula 1: in the space of twenty-four hours, he has gone from being the fastest man out there to last on the grid, through no fault of his own. We decided it was not even worth doing the timed lap, and called him in to save fuel for the race."

Denis Chevrier: "Fernando’s fifth place is an encouraging position from which to start tomorrow, and at least shows that the rain did not completely ruin our afternoon. However, given the times set by the people on the front row, we can only regret that circumstances prevented Jarno from doing a timed lap: he had the potential to take pole. Fate denied him a real opportunity to shine this afternoon."

Fernando Alonso: "I was a little bit unfortunate today. It started raining just as I went out, and even though the rain wasn’t particularly heavy, it cost me a few tenths. I was pushing just as hard as in dry conditions, but the time wasn’t there at the end of the lap: there wasn’t as much grip, especially under acceleration. Even so, the car is well balanced and I am in a good position for tomorrow."

Jarno Trulli: "What can you say about that? Every race, I am fighting for my first pole position, and this weekend I was on course to get it. We worked hard this morning, and I was very competitive, even if the times didn’t necessarily make it look that way. Then, the rain came and destroyed my chances. Tomorrow’s race will be tough, all the more so because it is very difficult to overtake here."

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Jaguar ( Mark Webber - 6th, Justin Wilson - 10th )

Dr Mark Gillan: "We have been on the receiving end of bad weather many times this season and for once it is nice to have been on the right side of the elements but our preparation going into this race has also been very thorough. We have generated over 1300kms of mileage in the past two days without a single reliability issue and the car’s balance around this demanding circuit is good in both single lap and endurance trim. As always, we have put our focus this weekend firmly into the race and having two cars start from the top ten is very good news for us. Both drivers did an excellent job in conditions that were far from perfect and apart from a tiny mistake Justin made going into turn one, I don’t think we could have asked for much more. With everything to play for and heavy showers forecast for tomorrow, bringing the cars home will be the order of the day and while points are never easy, we are well placed to make a serious challenge tomorrow. A good day and one we hope to maximize upon tomorrow."

Mark Webber: "I’ll take that! A pleasing lap but one that got tricky towards the end with the showers falling around the chicane and I had to take it a little careful. I could have got a sniff more out of the car towards the end but it wasn’t worth the risk. I don’t think I could have made a serious challenge towards Oliver Panis and while we were a little lucky with the weather, it is about time too. P6 is a good place to contest tomorrow’s race from and we are well prepared. It’s obviously going to be interesting to see what strategies everyone is on for tomorrow’s race and while we are not interested in the battle between the front runners, the tactics employed by BAR-Honda, Sauber and Toyota will be critical to the outcome of our race."

Justin Wilson: "A top ten position is pleasing although I could have done better. My sector two and three times were good but I ran a little wide through turn one which cost me some time. The balance and the handling of the car are quite good and I have been chipping away all weekend to the extent that my times have been getting better. The weather conditions tomorrow will no doubt play a big part in the race but the team’s preparation over the past few days has been very impressive. Between us, Mark and I have done over 1300kms of trouble- free running in the Jaguar R4 and as long as we remain reliable tomorrow, we should be in with a shout."

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McLaren (  David Coulthard - 7th, Kimi Raikkonen - 8th )

Ron Dennis: "An interesting outcome reflecting no more than the onset of rain which largely affected the last five cars. Hopefully our race strategy will contribute to a good result."

Norbert Haug: "It's a pity when the weather decides the order of the starting grid. However we expect this to be the basis for an exciting race. Yesterday's top five suffered an increasing handicap towards the end of today's session."

David Coulthard: "A fairly straightforward lap, but the circuit was getting a little bit wet so I had to take that into consideration. As I only had limited running this morning the weather meant that I was probably at less of a disadvantage than normally would be the case. In the last sector a piece of deflector flew off the car, but it didn't affect my time and I look forward to tomorrow."

Kimi Raikkonen: "The circuit was becoming wet when we went out so our time was the best we could do in those conditions. We will see what happens tomorrow when it becomes clear what strategy everybody is on and more importantly what the weather will do. We will do everything we can to make a good race and at least Michael is not on pole!."

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BAR ( Jenson Button - 9th, Takuma Sato - 13th - Replaces Jacques Villeneuve )

David Richards: "Well the last race is proving to be as dramatic as the whole 2003 season! Rain has once again upset the form book, but I am obviously pleased that this has helped our cause. It is difficult to know what fuel loads our direct competitors were running, but our grid positions have put us in touch with where we need to be. Jenson made a couple of small errors and probably had the speed to be a couple of places higher. Taku did a satisfactory job, but will no doubt benefit from more experience with this style of qualifying as we get into next season. As for tomorrow, I imagine that a great deal is going to depend on the weather, and with a forecast of rain it may well play into our hands."

Geoff Willis: "We were fortunate to avoid the penalty of the variable weather in qualifying today, however neither driver got an ideal lap. Jenson ran wide at the second Degna and lost some time through the chicane, as did Takuma, whose lap was also a little ragged. This morning we lost a bit of time with a hydraulics problem on Takuma’s car, but were able to complete the majority of our set-up work with Jenson working hard to catch up after losing most of yesterday’s running.. We are happy with our set-up and strategy for tomorrow’s race and our clear objective is to regain fifth position in the constructors’ championship."

Shuhei Nakamoto: "Another good effort from Jenson and Taku. The conditions obviously played a part in qualifying today and may well affect the race tomorrow. We have to take every opportunity we get to secure fifth place in the constructors' championship in front of our home crowd."

Jenson Button: "I was a little bit on the edge there and overcooked it in a couple of places, particularly in the second Degna where I went right over the kerb, so I lost a bit of time there. We needed to pull out a fast one though and get the best out of the car, and that’s what we’ve got to do to get the grid position. My set-up wasn’t ideal going into warm-up and we had to work quite hard during that session to make it better. It’s still not ideal but I’m quite pleased with the lap overall and it was a lot of fun. The most important thing now is to give it everything we’ve got in the race in order to win back fifth in the Championship."

Takuma Sato: "That was a little difficult for me. The important thing was to stay close to Jenson and I’m quite pleased with where I ended up. I did make a couple of mistakes which cost me a couple of tenths. Most importantly I didn’t make a big mistake so I’m quite confident for the race. Contrary to what many people think, I’m not as familiar with Suzuka as most of the current drivers. Before 2002, the last time I raced here was in 1998, and prior to that I only ever raced here in school series. With the latest changes to the circuit, I’m still learning as much as the other drivers – more so, of course, because I haven’t raced for a year. I have a huge amount of support here though and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow."

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Sauber ( Nick Heidfeld - 11th, Heinz Harald Frentzen - 12th )

Peter Sauber: "Our strategies were good, but the implementation of them didn't quite work out. Nick's lap was okay. Heinz-Harald's run was good, too, in the first and third sectors. In the middle one he unfortunately lost nine tenths of a second in Degner Two and consequently the fifth starting position, which would have been very important for us considering the grid positions of our principal opposition, Webber and Button."

Nick Heidfeld: "I believe my lap today was pretty good, but I think in general it is quite difficult to say who was really quick or not and we will see quite a few different strategies tomorrow. When I left the pits it started to drizzle and therefore I ran my out lap a little faster than planned, but ultimately the light rain didn't affect my flying lap. I am also happy with the car, it felt good in qualifying and during long runs this morning."

Heinz Harald Frentzen: "Up to Degner Two I had a good run, but I tried just a bit too hard - a tiny bit - and got stuck on the kerbs there and lost traction and acceleration which obviously hurt my starting position. However, my car was well balanced and good to drive so I'm hopeful for the race."

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Jordan ( Ralph Firman - 15th, Giancarlo Fisichella - 16th )

Gary Anderson: "I think the balance of the cars is reasonably good today and the performance just reflects the grip level that we’ve got. I think we’ve done the right thing for the race and after today’s conditions with rain coming mid afternoon, I hope it will do the same tomorrow and that we’ll be able to pull something out of what unfolds. To be honest, we could not have done more than we did. Being directly behind Michael, at least we can expect a bit of TV coverage on the grid and at the start tomorrow!."

Ralph Firman: "That was possibly one of my best laps all year. This is the only circuit where I feel I am on equal terms with Giancarlo and everyone else because I know it well. We also know the car really well by the end of the season and we found a good balance today. I’m really happy with it and it’s worked well although obviously we’d like to be quicker. Hopefully if it rains tomorrow it could be a good weekend for us. I like this circuit because it’s challenging and you have to have confidence at every corner to be fast. It’s great to be racing here again."

Giancarlo Fisichella: "I’m a bit frustrated with how it’s gone so far especially as it’s my last weekend with Jordan. We are not quick enough for some reason – I don’t know why, but it isn’t good. Anyway, I hear that tomorrow may be wet and I’m hoping it will be, as that would give us a better chance."

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Minardi ( Jos Verstappen - 17th, Nicolas Kiesa - 18th )

Paul Stoddart: "A sprinkle of drizzle just before the start of the final qualifying session gave great encouragement to European Minardi that it might be rewarded with a rain-affected session, but it was not to be until the last few cars. As usual, both our drivers gave 100 per cent this afternoon, and as for tomorrow’s race, which is critically important for the World Championship in so many ways, with three teams fighting for title honours and five others battling for the coveted fifth place in the Championship, European Minardi is expecting an interesting contest and believes a points finish is a definite possibility."

Jos Verstappen: "That was a reasonably good qualifying lap. I put a wheel just slightly in the dirt on one of the fast corners, but otherwise, there were no problems. Hopefully, the weather will play into our hands tomorrow, as some rain would definitely help. I lost set-up time in the second practice session this morning with a hydraulic system failure on my car, but it shouldn’t affect us too badly, as the car felt good on its race fuel load."

Nicolas Kiesa: "We made some useful progress this morning. I managed a long run with a heavy fuel load to check tyre degradation and overall car balance, and I was pleased to find that the balance was good and I was able to turn really consistent lap times. We also attempted a qualifying simulation right at the end of the morning session, but one of the Renaults went off, dragging dirt onto the track, and spoiled any chance of doing a meaningful lap. I feel I did a good lap on my qualifying run, bearing in mind the fuel I had on board and my lack of experience of this circuit. I made a mistake at turn eight, when I selected too low a gear, but fortunately, it didn’t cost me too much time. The car was handling well, and with the package we’ve got, I think it looks good for tomorrow."

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