FIA post-qualifying press conference - Japan 11 Oct 2003
POST-QUALIFING PRESS CONFERENCE - 11 OCTOBER 2003
1. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1m31.713s
2. Juan Pablo MONTOYA (WILLIAMS), 1m32.412s (+ 0.699s)
3. Cristiano DA MATTA (TOYOTA), 1m32.419s (+ 0.706s)
Published with permission from the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile.
Q: Rubens, it was an interesting and dramatic qualifying session. Obviously the conditions were great for you but talk about your lap first.
Rubens BARRICHELLO: Well, in a way I think the situation is a little bit masked because it rained afterwards. But I think it was a great lap, not that I want to say much about it but it was definitely my best lap at Suzuka in a qualifying session. The car improved a hell of a lot since the morning. This time I was the one who had to follow Michael a little bit because my car was not doing very well. We started very similar on Friday and we went apart but I had to go back and the car was really good on a new tyre so I am really happy. I was thinking it was a good lap. I don't know for pole or not but it would have been quite close and then it started raining.
Q: It is a critical race for Ferrari, not only for your team-mate Michael with the drivers' championship but also with the constructors' championship.
RB: Yeah, I mean, if I can win the race then probably for Michael it is done and for the constructors' we have myself and Juan Pablo on the front row and Michael a little bit behind with Ralf, so it's going to be quite difficult.
Q: Juan Pablo, your weekend didn't begin very well yesterday, you had a gearbox problem and lost a lot of time, but you made a great recovery today.
Juan Pablo MONTOYA: Yeah, I think I was a bit disappointed with the lap because I had too much understeer but this morning we showed the car has great potential, it has been very consistent even in the long runs so I think I am pretty pleased about it and I think we should be very strong.
Q: What are your thoughts about the battle for the constructors' championship. Has it changed the way you race, the way you drive?
JPM: Well, it's going to be pretty hard now. Ralf is going to start from the back of the grid and Michael is like P14 so they are going to be quite close together. It is up to me to get in front of Rubens, hopefully without touching this time - no guarantees on that! - and see what happens. We are going to do the best we can and if it meant to be our way it is going to be our way, if it's not, it's not.
Q: Cristiano, this is the second race in a row we have had a Toyota in the first three in qualifying and we have an all-South American top three. This is the first time you have been to Suzuka and it was a great performance.
Cristiano DA MATTA: Thank you. Of course, I am not going to believe that is the true spot where I should be starting on the grid but I believe that maybe we had a top eight if it wasn't raining. Anyway it is a big improvement from the team from yesterday to today. Yesterday we started quite a long way off the pace and this morning we made a couple of changes on the car. The engineers worked quite well overnight, the car was quite a bit better today. Of course, I will take the third place, I am not going to complain about that. I am just happy for me, especially, and also for the team.
Q: Olivier Panis is right behind you on the grid as well, so can you talk about the presence of Toyota here at the Japanese Grand Prix?
CDM: Well, I think for Toyota it couldn't be any better than starting third and fourth. Combined it is easily our best result for qualifying. It doesn't matter the way it came but it is still our best result in qualifying and it is going to make all the Toyota people here in Japan very happy and of course the team that has been working hard all year are happy too.
Q: I would say that it was typical weather conditions for you but that is not true, you have had perfectly dry pole positions. But what were the weather conditions when you were out like that because you were virtually the last one on a dry track.
RB: It was starting to spit. It was in the last sector. The high speed was okay, I braked into the chicane already a little bit in a conservative manner because I could see my visor really getting wet and as soon as I finished the lap I could see that the rain started to be heavier. I must admit that I thought the McLarens run, not just for DC but for Kimi, were quite good because it was already starting to be getting wet, not wet tyres but misty, and it is difficult to drive in those conditions. For Michael it was wet so there was no way.
Q: You had a problem on new tyres this morning, presumably that was all sorted out by the alterations you made for the warm-up?
RB: Yeah, my car was running very well. I could fight the car all through the esses and I didn't mind if it was spitting or not, I had to push and it was really good. I am really pleased with the lap that came in because the car was changed and it was better.
Q: So what conditions would you prefer for tomorrow?
RB: I don't mind. It is clear vision ahead. I hope to have a good start and that is all. People are trying to say that now it is on my back, since yesterday, because now I win the race and everything is sorted. But it is not like that. I just take the pressure and I just want to have fun and enjoy the race. I always find the race in Suzuka quite tough in terms of set-up because the car could go either way in the middle of the race, so I hope to have a really good run. I find that the car was good on old tyres but not as good as on new so on new tyres it is good as well now so hopefully tomorrow it is okay. If it is wet it is wet for everybody so it's okay as well.
Q: It is interesting the two of you battling for the constructors' championship, the title contenders further back for the drivers' championship.
RB: Now it is my chance to put him off so I will wait for him on the first corner and then I crash! (Laughter)
Q: So what has Juan Pablo got to say to that?
RB: It was only a joke anyway!
JPM: I don't know. I think it is going to be a pretty good race. My job at the moment is to try to win the race, try to beat Ferrari for the constructors' and hopefully it doesn't finish the same way as the last race. I am hoping it is dry to be honest. In the wet it is pretty hopeless.
Q: There is a new layout to the circuit. Is it going to make overtaking easier? What do you think of it?
JPM: I think 130R before was easier than now. This is a bit wider but there is a couple of bumps thrown in so it makes life quite interesting.
Q: And what about the chicane? Are you braking as hard for the chicane as you were before?
JPM: Yeah, probably the entrance is a bit wider but you have got to have the balls to follow somebody through 130R.
Q: So it is going to be quite difficult for your respective team-mates from the back of the grid then?
JPM: No, probably from further down on the grid they should pass quite easily, especially Ralf because we have got a big power advantage on most of the people so I think that will make his life a bit easier. When he gets to P7 or P8 it is probably going to become harder.
Q: A bit of a moment for you this morning, going off on Alonso's oil.
JPM: Oh yeah, pretty interesting. No flags or anything. I turned in and it was 'ooh, oversteer. What's wrong? Brake. I thought the wheel came off or something. It was pretty interesting.
Q: And then there was the Jaguar on your inside.
JPM: Yeah, I looked in the mirror and there was the Jaguar following me in the gravel and it was like 'oh, there we go, good thing I wasn't the only one!'
Q: Cristiano, once again, Toyota third on the grid for the second race running, and very important for Toyota but also yourself. You must be very pleased with the way things have turned out this season.
CdeM: Yeah, I'm happy with the year overall. I always wish I had a bit more consistency. There were some races where we were OK, some other races where we were just nowhere, so definitely our main target for next season is that we have to try to get ourselves in a position where we are... we were OK this year, we have to try to be OK in every race. That's the aim for next season. As for today, I am very happy. I'm not dreaming that I really had the car to be here in third place but I really believe that I had a car to be in the top eight or maybe a little bit better. It's impossible to know but we made a good improvement from yesterday to today anyway, and that's what matters. Hopefully for tomorrow it stays dry and we can have a clean race.
Q: After this morning's session, you said that things had to be clarified before qualifying; had you sorted that out?
CdeM: Yeah, there's a couple of areas that we still don't quite understand very well about our car. When we're running very well, when we're not running very well, we cannot understand exactly the reasons why. We seem to be getting a little bit better on that but not with complete understanding of it. I think today's result is very important in a way that is going to give the whole team a big boost of knowing the car a bit better, knowing what we have to do for next year and trying to make it better for next year.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Juan and Rubens, the new qualifying system worked out very well for you today but not for your team mates. Give us your thoughts on this, maybe that the championship is decided by a quick rain shower here and the new qualifying system is good, bad or just the way it is?
JPM: Just the way it is. Some races... I think Magny-Cours on Friday was the other way around. What can you do? Go with it.
RB: I agree, totally, because there is a system and the system works the same for everyone. Sometimes it might be in your favour, sometimes it won't be. You might have two negative sides in one year and two positive in the other one. It's just a question of being there at the right time. I'm not one of the guys that if the rain affects me, I go and start to say 'oh, shit, it happens to me and this and that.' The next day it might be for you, so you just get on with it.
Q: Rubens, you set a very impressive time. It has been said that you have a very aggressive strategy for this race...
RB: No really, we've been running the car the same pretty much all weekend and we're quite happy with everything. I wasn't happy with the set-up this morning, and I was running at a good pace on old tyres but not as good on new tyres. Everything was spot on in qualifying. I really did push a lot, I was very aggressive into the lap, that's all I can say. You're going to see the strategy tomorrow - who's going to stop when - but I'm pretty happy with mine.