Final qualifying - selected driver quotes 11 Oct 2003
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (1st, 1m 31.713s):
"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, Ferrari (14th, 1m 34.302s):
"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."
Nick Heidfeld, Sauber (11th, 1m 33.632s)::
"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, Sauber (12th, 1m 33.896s)::
"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."
Jos Verstappe, Minardi (17th, 1m 34.975s):
"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, Minardi (18th, 1m 37.226s):
"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."
Ralph Firman, Jordan (15th, 1m 34.771s):
"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, Jordan (16th, 1m 34.912s):
"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."
Mark Webber, Jaguar (6th, 1m 33.106s):
"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, Jaguar (10th, 1m 33.558s):
"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."
Cristiano da Matta, Toyota (3rd, 1m 32.419s):
"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, Toyota (4th, 1m 32.862s):
"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."
Jenson Button, BAR (9th, 1m 33.474s):
"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, BAR (13th, 1m 33.924s):
"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."
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (2nd, 1m 32.412s):
"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 setup 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, Williams (19th, no time):
"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."
Fernando Alonso, Renault (5th, 1m 33.044s):
"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, Renault (20th, no time):
"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."
David Coulthard, McLaren (7th, 1m 33.137s):
"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, McLaren (8th, 1m 33.271s):
"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!"